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Maximise the Prophet

Reading through the prophets in the Bible is a wonderfully rewarding experience.  The richness and depth of the material, the call to return to God and live in holiness, the reminders of God’s great love and faithfulness, the glorious hope held out for the future all make this part of the Bible a profitable place to plunge.  But it can be confusing.  The images are strange, the terminology unusual and sometimes it seems so far away from Christian experience.  How can we make the most of this part of Scripture?

One important step is to put the prophet in context.  This needs to be done in two different ways.  One is the historical context.  Often the book will open by doing exactly that.  Various kings or rulers will be mentioned at the very start of the book.  Take, for example, the book of Amos:

The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa– what he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel. (Amos 1:1)

Straight away we notice two rulers: Uzziah, king of Judah and Jeroboam, king of Israel.  Armed with this information we can go to 2 Kings 14:23-15:7 (Uzziah’s other name was Azariah).  Often a good cross-reference Bible will tip you off to where to look to find out background information in the historical books.

Not only should we put the prophets in their historical context, but also in their place in the big unfolding story of the Bible.  Most of the prophets fit between the reign of Solomon and the end of the Old Testament.  But there is a significant landmark to pay attention to in order to understand the significance of their place in the Bible’s big story.  That landmark is the exile.  In the exile Judah lost almost everything it meant to be Judah.  They lost their homeland, their city, their temple, their king.  All they had left in the exile was God’s word, and so the prophets became even more important to them, and we see in the prophets an elevation of their words, ideas and promises beyond anything that had been given to date.  The return from exile did not deliver the fulfillment to these promises, nor did it see the moral transformation of Judah, and so we see the prophets writing after the return, calling Judah continually back to obedience as well as painting promises still forward into the future.  Pay attention to where the prophet sits in reference to the exile.

Gospel and kingdom schematic

This diagram (from Graeme Goldsworthy’s excellent book Gospel and Kingdom) gives you an indication of where some of the prophets fit in the Bible’s story line. You may find it useful to plot the prophet that you’re reading on the diagram.  When did they speak?  Who was their audience?  Where do they fit on the timeline?  Where do they fit in relation to the exile?

Finally, read the prophet through the lens of Jesus.  The New Testament teaches us how to read the Old Testament.  Peter tells us that all the prophets were looking forward to Jesus:

Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. (Acts 3:24)

Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care,  trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.  It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. (1 Peter 1:10-12)

Reading the prophets can be harder work than some other parts of the Bible, but the effort will reward you with great profit.

Blog General

Community BBQ

bbqCome and join us for a bbq.  We’re having a community bbq on 31 August and everyone is welcome.  There’ll be lots of great food, great conversations and fun for the kids.  All ages welcome. At Flooding Creek we love to sponsor community and this is an opportunity to get together, have fun and get to know some other people in town.

Here’s the details:

When? 12 pm 31 August 2013

Where? At the Sale Fauna Park, near Lake Guthridge

What to bring? Just bring some food to share

Cost? Nothing

You might even like to check it out on Facebook.  See you there!

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What to say when you pray

What do you say when you pray?  That’s a question I’ve always asked.  You hear of great Christian leaders in the past who would rise 3 hours before dawn to pray, but what did they spend all that time praying about?

Paul gives us a taste of what he prays about in his letter to the Colossians.  He tells us that he doesn’t stop praying for the Colossians (1:9).  What does he pray for them?  That they would come to understand God’s will fully (1:9), and that that understanding would cause them to live worthy lives (1:10).  It’s Paul’s plan for Christian maturity.  He wants all Christians to grow in maturity in Christ (1:28).  He sees that as a combination of knowing what God wants and then putting it into practice.  It starts with knowing the word through the power of the Spirit and then living consistently with that.  When Paul fleshes that out he uses the same language he used for what is happening with the gospel in the world: bearing fruit and growing (1:6, 10).  In other words, Paul prays that the gospel will bear fruit and grow in the lives of the Colossians.

Likewise, when Paul asks for prayer from the Colossians he asks for an open door for the gospel (4:3-4).  Though he is in chains, his greater concern is that the gospel is unchained.  This may include his release, it may not, but his primary concern is that the gospel is preached.  Again, Paul wants prayer for gospel growth.

What is it that we pray for?  It’s good to pray for healing from sickness, improved circumstances, job, house, family, etc.  This is right and good because we are to bring everything before God in prayer.  But the centre of our prayers, if we are going to pray like Paul, is gospel growth.  What does that mean?  It means praying that Christians will mature, and that many more people will become Christian.  Here and overseas.  How do we do that well?  I take it, it will mean praying for many people.  That takes a little organisation.  Some people produce lists of people to pray for and work through those lists gradually. Some get updates from missionaries (local and overseas) and use their prayer points to educate their prayers.  Find what works for you and let’s pray like Paul – for gospel growth.

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The Bible on TV

the Bible


As with any time your favourite book gets adapted for television there will be bits missed out, bits oversimplified and some favourite lines missing.  But having said all that, the first couple of episodes of the Bible have been enjoyable and largely faithful to the original.  Why not watch the series at the same time as we go through the Old School preaching series?  And if you like the show, you’ll like the original book even more.  You might even like to check out the Bible Society’s reviews after each episode.

Blog General Sermon Series

Old School: Old Testament Overview

Old School


Exoduslaw1Promised land1


Join us on Sunday afternoons for a high altitude plane ride over the Old Testament.  What are the most important events in the OT?  What are the themes that find there way into the New Testament?  What is the big idea of the Bible?  How does the big story of the Bible unfold and what light does it shed on Jesus? You’ll be amazed at the coherence of the Bible’s story line, even over a period of more than 1500 years and 39 different authors.  There is one big story and it all points to Jesus.

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Evangelism is a team sport

Proverbs 24:6 says “for waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers.”  The wisdom behind this proverb is that war is the fiercest contest known to man.  If you have any hope of winning you had better get the smartest, most experienced soldiers you can to advise you to do it right.

In terms of spiritual warfare, there is no activity more on the front line than evangelism. Yet we often expect people to engage in evangelism alone. We pat them on the back, give them some encouraging words and say, ‘hop to it’.  We send them out like an SAS soldier, alone behind enemy lines, without support.  We then wonder why people find evangelism hard and give up.  What might it look like, though, if we shined the battle-hardened wisdom of Proverbs onto the situation?

First we’d see that we all need help with evangelism.  We need guidance and good training from those with experience.  There are some great courses out there, but my favourite is a little known one from Focus Military Ministry called ‘Gospel Talk‘.  It’s a great course because it teaches you how to ask questions and listen well.  It has a very simple gospel outline and spends a lot of time learning actual skills rather than discussing ideas.

Everyone knows that training is not enough.  No one goes to war alone.  They do it as part of a team.  So why do we give people the impression that evangelism is a solo activity?  We all have different gifts, even when it comes to evangelism.  Some are great at getting straight to talking about Jesus.  Some people are great at building friendships and bringing people together.  Whatever your gifts are, one worthwhile thing we can do with our unbelieving friends is introduce them to other Christians.  They will discover that Christians aren’t crazy-eyed freaks whose heads spin and spew out green vomit (I hope), but are normal people just like them.  They will see how Christians treat each other (something they may have never seen before) and they will get to know some other people from church (so that when you invite them it won’t seem so foreign).  They may even get to hear how Jesus has impacted the lives of others.  All too often our Christian community is locked inside the 4 walls of a church or Bible study room.  We can export that community by mixing together our circles of friends – church, work, sport etc.  Why not try to make your unbelieving friends the church’s unbelieving friends?

Not only can we work together, but we can disciple one another in evangelism.  Discipleship is a powerful activity. Why would we leave evangelism out of that discussion? Mike Hanlon, from Focus Military Ministry, taught me this. When we disciple people, along with asking them how they are growing in Christ, praying and reading the Bible with them, we can ask them how their evangelism is going. Have you had any good conversations lately? Let’s workshop how you could have responded differently. Where are you up to with your unbelieving friends?  Where could you take them next?  How can I help?  It’s amazing how an outside perspective can bring fresh eyes to what feels like a stale situation.

Evangelism is hard work, but it’s what we’re called to do.  When we follow Christ we join him on his mission to seek and save the lost.  The more help we can give each other in evangelism the better.  Ultimately though, Proverbs reminds us that we may battle hard, but it’s God who saves:  “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.” (Proverbs 21:31)

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Can we be equal but different?

God teaches us in the Bible that the relationship between a husband and a wife involves two complementary roles.  The husband is to lead his wife by daily laying down his life in service to his wife and his wife is to submit to the leadership of her husband.

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:22-25)

Does this imply superiority or inferiority of the marriage partners, though?  Does a wife become inferior to her husband because she submits to his leadership?  We see ordered relationships in our society all the time, and yet hold the equality of all Australians very seriously.  We have ordered relationships in parliament (Prime Minister, Cabinet, back-benchers).  We have ordered relationships in hospitals (Doctors, nurses, orderly staff).  We even have ordered relationships in schools (Principal, teachers, students).  Yet even within those ordered relationships we consider everyone equal.

A classic case in point was the imprisonment of Supreme Court Justice Marcus Einfeld, who was convicted of perjury over a $77 speeding fine and jailed for 3 years.  Even though he was a supreme court judge, before the law he was treated exactly the same as the cabby who takes us to the airport, even though their status in society is a million miles apart.  Equal, but different.

We see the same idea when we get to the airport.  The captain and co-pilot who sit in the front of our airliners are equal but different.  They are both equally pilots.  They are both well trained.  But one is the captain and is responsible for the safety of everyone on board the aircraft.  The captain has complete authority on board the aircraft and the co-pilot cooperates with the captain in everything.  The co-pilot is no less a pilot than the captain (you’ll be happy to know if the captain has a heart attack), but submits to the captain’s leadership.  Equal but different.

We see it all the time around us, and have no problem with it.  Likewise in marriage God has given us a pattern for husbands and wives to relate, where both spouses are equal in the marriage, but their roles are different.

Blog General

5 Myths About Sin

First, what is sin?  Sin is wanting to be our own god and living life our own way.  Sin is in everyone, and it shows itself in our thoughts, words, actions or what we fail to do.  In Colossians 3:5-11 Paul encourages the Colossians to put off their ‘old self’ since they died with Christ and have a ‘new self’ being renewed in the knowledge of Christ.  By our ‘olds self’ Paul is referring to our sinful nature.

Sin is often ridiculed today and even Christians think about it incorrectly.  Here’s some common myths about sin:

  1. If I feel at peace about it, it’s not a sin.  Feelings are a very poor guide to sin.  The best way to recognise sin is to look intently into the Bible, which is like a mirror showing us what we are really like. (James 1:22-24)
  2. It’s just a private sin.  Sin has a way of becoming public.  Sin affects everyone.  It first of all has a dehumanising effect on us.  The way it dehumanises us then affects the way we treat others.  Jesus said a day is coming when everything will be known, so while a sin may seem private, all sin will be made public on that day. (Luke 8:17)
  3. This will be the last time.  It’s the permission we give ourselves to do again what we intend to stop.  The trouble is, it’s always the last time… until the next time.  This is a lie of the devil.  Don’t believe it.
  4. There is a hierarchy of sin.  Sin is not inherently an action but an attitude.  It stems from our nature.  Therefore there is no hierarchy of sin.  Rather all our actions are symptoms of the sin in our life.  The smallest white lie is as bad as the most heinous crime, since both point to the sin in our heart.
  5. I can always repent later.  This is a myth on two counts.  First, failing to repent hardens out hearts.  Who can say that our continual refusal to repent will not so harden our hearts that we actually lose the inclination to repent all together.  Second, Jesus is returning any day now.  We don’t know when, there will be no warning signs, and when he does return the opportunity for repentance will be finished.  Is delaying your repentance a risk you’re willing to take?

The great news about Jesus, though, is that if we repent (turn back to God) and have faith (trust) in him then we will be saved, not just from the punishment of sin, but also from its power.  It’s on the basis of this that Paul calls the Corinthians to ‘put to death’ the sin in their lives.  How about you?  Do you know God’s salvation?  Are you putting sin to death in your life?

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Launch Team Meetings Have Begun!

Launch Team meetings have begun for Flooding Creek and everyone’s welcome.  We are now meeting in Guthridge Primary School at 3:00pm on Sunday afternoons.  We begin by sharing afternoon tea together and then kick off our meeting at 3:30pm.  We finish by sharing dinner together in the hall.  It’s a great time of singing, praying and hearing from God’s Word.  There is no dress code, we are all very casual.  Kids are welcome and will be looked after, but we have no formal programs for kids at this stage.

Parking is available on Dawson Street and the grounds can be entered by a large side gate near the oval.  The hall is at the western end of the school grounds.  If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Work part 4

So far in this blog series on work we’ve looked at some wrong motivations for work, work as a part of creation and work as part of society.  In this final installment we’ll look at doing the work of God.

Jesus tells us in John’s Gospel that there is a third kind of work – the work of God. “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (Jn 6:29).  Not only is believing a work, but bringing others into faith is also the work of God.  All of Jesus’ “works” point to the salvation he will bring.  e.g. of the man born blind: “this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (Jn 9:3) and the “greater” works that Jesus’ followers will do after him (Jn 14:12).  Paul also speaks of the ‘work of the Lord’, which is to see people saved. (e.g. 1 Cor 15:58).

Often people mistakenly connect the work of God too tightly with the work of a ‘gospel worker’, but this is far too simplistic a picture.  The pastor, teacher, gospel-worker is given by Christ to the church to equip the saints for works of service. (Eph 4:11-12).  The work of God is done by all Christians.  All Christians believe in Christ (cf. Jn 6:29) and all Christians seek to see others believe in Christ.

How do we bring together all three kinds of work, then?

I take it that everyone does all three kinds of work.  Everyone is involved in the work of creation (ordering and reordering), everyone is involved in the work of society (creating communities that care) and every Christian is involved in the work of the Lord (believing and seeing others come to faith).  The mixes may be different between jobs, but everyone is involved in all three.  Even the full-time minister does all three kinds – creation (cleaning up the office), society (running church committees) and the work of the Lord (preaching, evangelising, etc.).

How do I decide whether to go into full-time ministry, then?

What makes full-time ministry particularly worthy of consideration is the opportunity to ‘equip the saints’ and so multiply the work of the Lord.  It is not that you do more of the work of the Lord, but that you help others do more.  Of course, this equipping the saints is also part of the work of the Lord.  A lack of pastors / teachers / gospel-workers constrains the growth of the church.  Full-time ministry is not inherently more valuable than ‘secular’ ministry, but it is a key-enabler for multiplying the work of the Lord.  As Christians we are completely free to choose to enter full-time ministry or not and both choices are good.  Only those who qualify should be encouraged to enter Christian leadership, however (1 Tim 3:1-7).

All work towards the ends of creation, society or the work of the Lord is worthwhile.  It is all at heart service in relationship.  We must not segment off areas of our lives where the word of God no longer speaks.  Those who work in the ‘secular’ workforce still need to consider what the word of God says concerning the work they are doing.  How does it speak to the work of creation that they are doing?    How does it speak to the work of society that they are doing?  How does it speak to the work of the Lord that they are doing?  We need to help one another think hard about how we work.  Bringing the gospel to bear on our work will bring about the best work, since the Lord of the gospel is the same Lord who created us and created work.