Saturday, 21 April 2018

THE SECRET ALLIANCE AND MISSION OF PATIENCE, HEAT, AND PRESSURE


THE SECRET ALLIANCE AND MISSION OF PATIENCE, HEAT, AND PRESSURE
UNVEILING THE INGREDIENTS AND PROCESS
OF TURNING ORDINARY TO PRECIOUS

The Boathouse Launceston Flood memorialIn a matter of weeks Kim and I will celebrate another wedding anniversary. But this will not just be another another wedding anniversary for us. This one will be special. After months of contemplating our options, this morning we bought each other our mementos to be exchanged in mid-June. These mementos are precious. Like all things precious such as these mementos and our upcoming anniversary, they take a long time to prepare. That long time is needed in order to make the regular investments of time and effort. Our mementos have each had dozens of people in their chains of custody including miners, drivers, dealers, buyers, jewellers, sales people. So has our marriage. Our parents, our families, our friends, our pastors, our teachers, our mentors, our children, have all made an investment in our marriage - most without even realising it. All precious things require patience. But patience alone can not make anything precious, including who you are.

  then the Almighty will be your gold
and your precious silver.
 For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty
and lift up your face to God.
Job 22:25-26

The flood levee in LauncestonPATIENCE

¶ Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.
James 5:7

I ponder these things today as I consider the momento I will give Kim. It is a precious momento apt for a precious occasion. Its components, according to Wikipedia, took tens of millions of years to form. That's patience. There are some things in life that can only be attained or achieved by being patient. Patience is one of the hallmarks of the Spirit-filled life.

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

Patience is sometimes God's means of making us into who He has called us to be. Patience is always God's test of who we will trust and whether He can entrust us. Patience is a necessary step in the process of something being made precious

so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
First Peter 1:7

I have had a keen interest in the progress of someone whom I felt from the earliest days showed remarkable potential at virtually anything they put their hand to. They seemed to be gifted academically, on the sporting field, with music, and a few other interests they developed. However, as I observed them, I noticed a pattern emerge in their life. They always seemed to be in a hurry. Perhaps it was due to their natural giftedness that they felt that they didn't need to study/train/practice like everyone else. Such patient preparation seemed to them as if it was a waste of time. As they aged I noticed that their impatience and reluctance to do what boxers call their "work in the dark" (all of the early morning distance running and before dawn gym work) left them behind in the areas in which they once excelled. That was when that dreadful character flaw of excuse-making/blaming-others became so virulent within them. To this day, although they love God and are faithful in their church, they are still blighted - and dare I say - their soul has been retarded, because they are so impatient and so upset with everyone and quick to blame someone else for their failings. They have gone from job to job never being able to get along with their boss. Hopefully one day they will learn that being still is markedly different from doing nothing.

to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life;
Romans 2:7

But patience alone will never transform the ordinary into the extraordinarily precious. People say, "Time heals all wounds." But it doesn't. It needs something else.  

Gold-RefiningHEAT

The Apostle Peter stated that our relationship with God, which he called our faith, was more precious than gold - but that this precious faith would be made so by the fire of testing. The process of making something or someone precious requires patience and intense heat

so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
First Peter 1:7

the-refiner-of silverHeat is used in metallurgy to refine a metal such as gold or silver. As the metal becomes molten and is then poured into a casting, the impurities (dross) are drawn to the surface. While the precious metal is still in its molten state this dross is scraped off. The prophet Malachi, writing at the time when the prophets declaration of Israel being restored to their land was fulfilled after their return from the Exile, stated that God wanted to further refine His people as a silversmith refines 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. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.
Malachi 3:3-4

Silver refining is tedious. Unlike gold, if the silver is exposed to too much heat for too long it can turn to a gas. The silver refiner must patiently heat the precious metal, then patiently wait for the dross to surface. As he removes the dross this process is repeated until all the dross has been removed. The refiner must continually bring the molten silver out of the furnace and look straight into it during this process. Only when their own face is perfectly reflected back to them has the process been completed. In a similar way, God puts those He wants to transform into the heat or refining. His eye is ever on them during this process and He always removes them before it harms them. And with each stage of His refining in their life, His likeness is becoming clearer to all.

And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’;
and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”
Zechariah 13:9

Patience and heat are essential for the process of precious-making. But there is one more ingredient or step in the process which must be fused along with them.

PRESSURE

A beautiful sparkling diamond on a light reflective surface. 3d image. Isolated white background.More precious than the most precious metal, are diamonds. These highly prized jewels are among the hardest substances known to man. When cut by a skilled jeweller diamonds can display the spectrum of light's colours. A diamond was once a piece of organic matter (carbon) that over several million years of heat and great pressure (from being buried way beneath the earth's crust) was eventually transformed into coal which several tens of millions of years later after more heat and pressure, was then spewed out in various volcanic explosions having been transformed into diamonds, to await the day when a miner would unearth them, a jeweller would beautify them, and a radiant bride would wear it as a momento to her thirtieth wedding anniversary

This process of taking a piece of carbon and putting it through a long process of enormous heat and pressure is a metaphor for how God transforms an ordinary lost soul into a precious child of God whom He adopts and grants full and equal inheritance rights to. When the one who has trusted God through this transformation process finally breathes their last, He calls their transition into their real home - precious.  

¶ Precious in the sight of the LORDis the death of his saints.
Psalm 116:15

royal-engagement-diamond-ring 

Gold and silver are repeatedly refined in order to be purified and made precious. Diamonds are the result of millions of years of pressure, and heat. They are then sought after. When found, they are not yet what they will be. A Master Jeweller takes them, cuts them, and then features them within clasps of gold. The precious jewel and the precious metal form a lifelong partnership. The seller then presents them in a showcase with appropriate spotlights directed at them. Then the day arrives when the one destined to take up the precious metal and jewel combination walks into the showroom and is connected with their memento.

God is the orchestrator of a like process when it comes to making His children precious. The next time you feel that things aren't happening quick enough for you, or that life is really hard at the moment, or that you're under a lot of pressure, or that you're copping a lot of heat, or that it feels like there are parts of your life being cut away, or that spotlight is being turned on you - remember that this is probably God's precious process at work in your life.

Since you are precious and special in my sight,
  and I love you,
I will hand over people in place of you,
  nations in place of your life.
Isaiah 43:4 NET

Pastor Andrew

Monday, 9 April 2018

OVERCOMING THE OVERWHELMING, Part 1


OVERWHELMING BURDEN BEARING
Part 1

overwhelmed03It’s a horrible feeling to feel out of control. There are many things in life in which we each get a say and can directly effect the outcome. But there are just as many things – and for those who feel as if they have lost all control – even more things, in which we have no say, get no vote, and can do nothing to change the outcome. It is in these times that a person feels overwhelmed. To use an aviation analogy, it’s like flying at night in overcast and foggy conditions when you have little idea where you are or what’s in front of you. This sense of feeling overwhelmed is a burden too great for some. It clouds a person’s judgment. It robs a person of confidence. Yet some people have learned the secret to overcoming the sense of being overwhelmed. After watching some of them closely, this is what I’ve noticed.
¶ 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

OVERWHELMED BY GRIEF

The shock that comes from losing someone close can be debilitating. Therapists generally talk about the six stages of grief that every human experiences at varying rates and degrees. When it comes to grief there is no ‘one size fits all’, yet we will all pass through these six stages. The early stages of grief include shock, denial, anger, depression. Grief doesn’t come with a schedule but does come with a sequence. For some the initial stages of grief linger for years and years. This is especially so when there is no warning – such as a road fatality, or cold-blooded criminality. It is most especially so when it is suicide (which therapists describe as ‘complicated grief’). Such tragedies cause grievers to suffer trauma which is where the grief keeps the memory of the tragedy at the forefront of the griever’s mind. For those of us who have never suffered this kind of trauma it can be difficult to understand why a traumatised griever doesn’t just “move on”.  
¶ Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so did all the men who were with him. And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the LORD and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.
Second Samuel 1:11-12
It takes those traumatised by grief longer to process their grief. The final stages of any grief includes acceptance of reality and appropriate compassion for others. Because trauma distorts reality, it is often very difficult for a sufferer to process their grief through to grief’s final stages without some assistance. This kind of overwhelming grief can generally only be overcome by the griever teaching their heart to ‘file past memories’. Trauma keeps a tragic memory fresh. Trauma constantly battles reality with shock and denial. This is why writing the sequence of events with as much expression as possible is so therapeutic because retrains the mind to take the memory of the tragedy and file it away in the appropriate collection of memories as a past event that really occurred. Skilled counsellors can guide a traumatised griever through this process so that they are no longer overwhelmed by the memory of the tragedy and all of the associated feelings of guilt (one of the stages of grief). In this healthy grieving process, ‘moving on’ looks like living with a degree of sorrow for what has happened and has now been lost, and, being able to feel empathy and sympathy for others who may also begin to grieve without it causing the recovered griever to retreat from these grieving people. ‘Moving on’ does not mean forgetting or never feeling sad about the loss. 

OVERWHELMED BY DESPAIR

weight-of-the-world-2
The other night I was watching one of late-night investigative crime-reporting shows produced by Vanity Fair where they featured an extremely intelligent young lady, Sandra Boss, who was a corporate lawyer earning nearly two million dollars a year, fell victim to a con-artist. At a dinner party held by friends she met a charming man named Clarke Rockefeller, who shared that he was a member of the Rockefeller dynasty. She fell in love with him and they married and eventually had a daughter. Their marriage turned sour and this led to an awkward custody arrangement with Clarke, who was identified in court as Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter. After kidnapping his daughter and being tracked down by Police, ‘Clarke’ was identified as the chief suspect in a double homicide which had happened several years earlier. 
“There is a difference between intellectual intelligence and emotional intelligence,” Boss said in a firm voice, as the lawyer for the man authorities say is really Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter asked how such an accomplished woman could have been fooled.
“I’m not saying I made a very good choice of husband,” Boss said. “It’s pretty obvious that I had a blind spot. All I’m saying is that it’s possible that one can be brilliant and amazing in one area of one’s life and pretty stupid in another.”
THE BOSTON GLOBE, June 3rd 2009
Consider Ms. Boss’s words, “It’s possible that one can be brilliant and amazing in one area of one’s life and pretty stupid in another.” 
She said she believed his claim that he was a Rockefeller and was involved in the Trilateral Commission, or “the Group,” as he called it. The commission is a private organization whose aim is to generate closer cooperation between the United States, Europe, and Japan.
And Boss accepted numerous other fantastic stories, including that his mother was a former child movie star and that he was mute as a child, regaining his speech only after spotting a dog and blurting out his first word in seven years: “woofness.”
Being highly intelligent in one area of life can make a person feel all the more overwhelmed when it comes to navigating relationships. “There is a difference between intellectual intelligence and emotional intelligence”, Sandra Boss admitted. This shouldn’t be surprising. Professionals work tirelessly to pass increasingly difficult exams over five or more years. They then often have to work as interns for another year or two where they are supervised and scrutinised while being subjected to criticism and humiliation. Yet, when it comes to relationships, even the brightest and most professional people do little to nothing to develop their emotional skills needed to get along with others. This is why a lawyer can be an amazing lawyer but a terrible boss, or a doctor can have an amazing bedside manner but be riddled by isolation and loneliness.
Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman.
First Samuel 1:13
compassionate-hands2Learning how to emotionally connect with another requires developing the three levels of listening. It is governed by the goal of understanding before being understood. When someone feels that another person understands them, they are involuntarily drawn closer to that person. This is achieved by learning to practice reactive listening where the listener reacts in such a way that they disarm and invite the one they are listening to speak freely. It is complemented by active listening which combines empathy with clarification questions. It is completed with responsive listening where the listener demonstrates that they have heard what has been told to them or asked of them. This also requires the skill of learning that when someone shares their heart, they are not merely sharing facts. They are sharing how they feel using words that are interpretted as wooden-literal facts by those trained to pass exams involving precise language.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

The Secret To Handling Overwhelming Burdens, Part 2

OVERWHELMING BURDEN BEARING
Part 2

Pilots are trained to be able to fly at night in thick cloud over mountainous terrains. If they ignore their training and become overwhelmed they run the risk of losing their bearings and their life. But if they can remain composed and rely on their training, they will trust their cock-pit instruments and be able to navigate their plane through these treacherous conditions. Despite their lack of visibility, their instruments will tell them their altitude, their location, their attitude, their speed, and other vital information. This is great metaphor for managing what would ordinarily be an overwhelming situation in life where God's Word acts as our flight instruments.

Flying in such conditions often leads to a pilot having to fly counter-intuitively. If you've ever watched an episode of Air Flight Investigation, you will seen instances of where a pilot thought their instruments were broken because their senses were deceiving them. When we are prone to being overwhelmed, our senses often tell us to flee. But if we would trust our instruments, as revealed in Scripture, we might avoid making matters worse and thereby lessen our annoying pattern of always being overwhelmed whenever this trigger appears.


For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Second Timothy 1:6-7

“Take My yoke upon you!” summoned the Christ. Perhaps in the First Century A.D. this sounded appealing. But in the 21st Century A.D. the last thing many of us want is not another weight on our shoulders! We are each at times weighed down by the complexities of our modern fast-paced, highly demanding, relationship straining, lonely, debt-festering, burdens. We get tired. We feel unwell. We fail to meet our own expectations let alone those of others. These multiple burdens can genuinely feel overwhelming. But there is a secret way to navigate these overwhelming demands and it’s easier to do than you might think.
Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”
Matthew 11:29-30

When I feel overwhelmed and I sleep too little, exercise too minimally, fret too much, I employ the secret. Rather than adding to my intolerable burdens, Christ’s yoke is not in addition to what is weighing upon my mind and draining my strength. No, it is instead of. For when I heed Christ’s summons to be yoked to Him, He takes the weight of my burdens from off my shoulders, puts them on His own, and replaces them with yoke designed to be worn by two beasts of burden. It’s not a fair deal though. God’s grace is never fair. Typical of how the ancient Orientals introduced a novice oxen to the task of jointly pulling a plow, when I am yoked to Christ I am yoked to the One who does the bulk of the heavy lifting. Christ unfairly takes my share of the yoke’s burden upon His own shoulders. It reminds me of the story of the toddler who wanted shoot baskets with his uncle the basketballer. There was no way the visiting nephew could even get the ball the nine feet in the air required to shoot a basket. To avoid the disappointment, his uncle lifted him and the ball up above his shoulders where all the wee one had to do was drop the ball into the hoop. He went up and the ball went down through the hoop. “I did it!” he exclaimed, “I did it – all by myself! I did it!” And his uncle just smiled and celebrated with him. Christ has been like an uncle to me many times and I have been like a self-absorbed wee one to Him too many times. But He still bears my burdens.
O Lord my God, when I, in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hand hath made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy pow’are throughout the universe displayed
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin
When Christ shall come, with shouts of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, “My God, how great You are!”
How Great Thou Art,  Stuart K. Hine, 1949

No matter how overwhelmed you may feel at the moment, He will gladly bear your burdens. He invites us to depend upon Him as the Source of all our needs, and to continue to cast all our burdens onto Him.

¶ 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

Pastor Andrew

Thursday, 29 March 2018

10 EVIDENCES FOR THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS

10 EVIDENCES FOR THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS

Christianity stands or falls on one major claim – Jesus the Christ physically died and physically rose from the dead. If this claim is false, Christianity is false. If this claim is true, it has profound implications for you and me!
All other religions are founded on private revelations. Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, claimed to have had a very private revelation of the four noble truths. Muhammed  ibn ʿAbdullāh, known to Muslims as the Prophet, claimed to have had a private encounter with the Angel Gabriel and a private revelation that God (‘Allah’ in Arabic) was one and that the Qur’an was His final revelation to mankind. Joseph Smith claimed to have had a private encounter with an angel called Moroni who privately revealed to him golden tablets inscribed with Hieroglyphics revealing a fantastic story of the ancient Hebrews migration to the Americas. But Christianity is public. The miracles surrounding the birth of Jesus (the first Christmas, were public). Christ’s demonstration of miracles, which included – instantly healing leprosy, blindness, lameness, palsy, and raising people back to life, were done publicly. His second greatest miracle, the raising of Lazarus from being dead having been dead for 4 days, was witnessed by scores of people with many of them being sceptics! His encounter with angels and dead saints were seen publicly. His post-mortem appearances were witnessed by those who had seen Him executed by the Romans. At one time, up to 500 people saw the resurrected Jesus – very publicly!
At Easter, it is good to be reminded of the evidences for the resurrection of Jesus the Christ.
  1.  The Romans killed Christ with many witnesses to the death.
  2.  The lifeless body of Christ was buried in a wax-sealed tomb secured by armed guards.
  3.  The tomb was found on the following Sunday morning to be empty.
  4.  The women who went to the tomb that Sunday morning met, talked with, and touched the resurrected Jesus.
  5.  Jesus appeared on the road to Emmaus to two despondent followers.
  6.  Jesus appeared to His surviving disciples and ate with them.
  7.  Jesus appeared to the sceptical Thomas.
  8.  Jesus appeared to 500 people at one time prior to His ascension.
  9.  His opponents could not present the dead body of Christ.
  10.  Thousands of Jewish converts immediately changed their day of worship from the Saturday Sabbath to Sunday (the day Christ rose from the dead).
He is risen!
Dr. Andrew Corbett

Saturday, 24 March 2018

LEADING REQUIRES 2020VISION

2020VISION-2018-01
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
2020VISION-2018-03

SHAPE #1: DIFFERENT SHOPS

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.

SHAPE #2: DIFFERENT DOGS

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

SHAPE #3: FIRST RESPONDERS

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

MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU THINK!

More-Important-Than-You-Think
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.


1Time-is-more-important-than-you-think
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
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).

2People-are-more-important-than-you-think
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

3Church-is-far-more-important-than-you-think
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