home >Pastor’s Desk>2016>January 22nd>Water

WATER!

corbett-s_parched_pond1

I’m busy. But despite my busyness there some things I just have to make time for. Watering is one of them. Even before a managed a plant nursery for a few years I had developed a love for a nicely landscaped garden. If you’ve been one of the many visitors to our home you will have noticed that in the eight years we have lived there we have transformed our barren patch of dirt to a nicely landscaped feature native garden with an ornamental feature weeping Silver Birch tree in the middle of a winding pathway which leads to our front door. On the other side of this pathway is my lawn. It is lush green with a minimal number of weeds. But recently I realised that I’d made a big mistake which has a powerful spiritual application.

¶ He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
Psalm 1:3

During what has been one of the hottest Summer’s that we’ve ever had, I have consistently watered this garden and lawn with a sprinkler on a timer system. But this is not our only garden feature. Just off my driveway we have a pond surrounded by my beloved man-ferns. Nearby our pond we have two plantings of Kim’s favourite tree, Japanese Maples (perhaps due to her time as an exchange student in Japan), and a large Rhododendron. This area hasn’t received the attention that my front lawn area has because Tasmania’s world-famous normal rainfall levels have been more than adequate for keeping these plants well watered. But last week I noticed that the grass around my pond area wasn’t very green – in fact, it wasn’t anything, except dead!  I then took a closer look at our prized miniature Japanese Maples and I noticed that they had dropped a lot of leaves and some of their small branches had now become dead-wood.

¶ O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1

corbett-s_parched_pond2Even before today’s water restrictions were enacted, I decided to begin hand-watering this parched area of my garden. But I noticed that the water wasn’t penetrating the ground. Because I had not kept up a consistent daily watering of this area two things happened: (i) plants and grass began to die of thirst, and (ii) the ground supporting these plants and grass had become resistant to the very thing it needed!

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
John 4:13-14

THE VALUE AND COST OF CONSISTENT WATERING

Quite a few years ago we experienced the financial cost of not watering the grass and plants around our house. We had recently moved to Tasmania from Melbourne and had rented out our house there. We had entrusted our house to the management of a local real estate agent. Unfortunately for us, neither the real estate agent or the tenants gave any attention or care to watering the grass and plants around the house. The cost of this only became apparent to us the day the real estate agent rang us to say that one of our external walls had a major crack in it. The lack of watering had caused the ground to become unstable and undermined the foundations of the house. The cost of neglecting to water regularly was many many thousands of dollars!

That He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word.
Ephesians 5:26

SPIRITUAL WATERING

corbett-s_parched_pond3

A close-up of my parched ground around my pond. From a distance it looks like it has a tinge of green – but distant looks can be misleading.

Considering my side-garden in its present state and its now reluctance to absorb the water it so desperately needs, I considered the spiritual parallels. Perhaps some of us too have neglected to regularly water our souls with the water of God’s Word.

“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their Shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Revelation 7:17

Our souls need watering. We are created to drink in the Living Water that God alone is able to give. Each day our soul craves the gentle showering of God’s refreshing living water.  Just like the soil around my small pond, even though we are close to water it does not mean that we are actually being watered. Without regular spiritual watering of our souls the surface of our souls becomes hardened and ironically resistant to living water! It is possible to be a follower of Christ who has become spiritually parched due to a lack of regular watering from God’s Word. The spiritually parched follower of Christ may appear to still have a green tinge, but upon closer examination, they are parched, dried out, and hardened. They have lost their thirst for God and His Living Water, which inevitably leads to a lack of desire to come to the Well (the assembling of their local church). Even when such a parched believer attempt to open their Word and find water for their soul, they are so parched and hardened by the distractions of life that Christ described in Matthew 13 (the cares and pleasures of life, the lusts of the flesh, the distractions of the world) that even this life-giving water which their soul craves cannot initially be absorbed in until they have done what every gardener knows needs doing.

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.
Hosea 10:12

 Despite my parched ground’s resistance to my watering with my trigger-nozzled hose, each night after dinner when I had returned from nightly walk with Poppy, I would shower my plants and ground. Night after night I persisted. Even after a week there was still not much to show for my efforts, but I knew that something was happening where it mattered most – beneath the surface. Sometimes when we are spiritually parched and dried-out we have to persist with our watering and keep doing what our soul needs even though it looks like the surface of our souls is showing very little benefit. Just like persistent watering of a parched lawn, the most important transformation and healing is taking place beneath the surface. In this case, the believer who has neglected the Word of God’s Living Water may read a chapter of Scripture and then intellectually wonder what benefit it was while all along their soul is beginning to reawaken.

And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.”
Revelation 21:6

The smoke haze encroaching into Launceston at the Cataract Gorge First Basin

Tasmania is currently in the grip of a dangerous drought. I suspect that this is a portend of where many who name the Name as their Saviour are at spiritually. Compromise, neglect, distraction, all lead to a spiritual drought. And as we are seeing now, when such conditions prevail the risk of destruction greatly increases. May we at this dangerous time take care to water our souls with the Living Water of God’s Word and soften the grounds of our hearts so that we bear fruit for our Betrothed. No matter how busy we are, let’s water our souls. See you at the Well this Sunday.

Your Pastor,

Andrew

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WHAT WOULD IT TAKE FOR ATHEIST & MAGICIAN PENN JILLETTE TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN?

I’ve been praying for Penn Jillette for some time now. It began when I first heard him ridicule the Bible and Christianity. My fascination with Penn (and Teller), and other world-class magicians, has been due to my pursuit to develop my craft of preaching. There are a lot of similarities between preachers and magicians (just as there is also a lot similarities between solo musicians and preachers). I seek to learn from magicians about how to keep an audience’s attention, how to tell a story, and how to make a point by employing the element of surprise. But there are some significant differences between what magicians do and what preachers do though. A magician is deliberately deceptive. A preacher is striving to uphold truth in an honest way.

THINK ABOUT THIS

In Australia, it’s football finals time and the U.S. the last Grand Slam event for the year has just concluded. I find a lot of life lessons from observing elite athletes — including and especially those who play football and those who play tennis. Most people might consider football to be a team sport and tennis to be individual sport. But the distinction is not so clear these days. Often times footballers are individually coached by “position coaches” and a tennis player is often just who the public sees of a team of people responsible for the performance of that player. At the time of writing, there are remaining four Australian Rules Football (AFL) teams about to play off in the Preliminary Finals (including my beloved Geelong Cats). Last weekend, Carlos Alcaraz of Spain defeated Casper Ruud of Norway. Both players have intriguing stories which I will mention shortly. In the AFL, after a disastrous last season, the Collingwood Magpies appointed a new coach for this season, Craig McRae. Even though they got off to a slow start this season, under McRae’s oversight ended up having an 11-straight winning streak toward the end of the season and now look like genuine  Premiership contenders. What do Carlos Alcaraz, Casper Ruud, Craig McRae, and the Collingwood football team, all have in common? All the players at the elite level of their sport make an enormous commitment to train, practice, sleep, hydrate, and eat a regulated diet. Yet at the very highest levels in their respective sporting codes the difference between the elite and the extra-elite is no longer skill or fitness. In fact, the difference between them is so applicable to everyday life that it may be the most relevant and do-able thing you hear for a long time. So, think about this.

LOOKING BACK OVER THE PAST 200 YEARS

As Kim and I enjoyed our weekly coffee-date this morning at Stillwater, she looked out ruminatively across at all of the development that has taken place over the years where the North and South Esks merge to form the Tamar River.

“I wonder if the settlers who came here two hundred years ago” she asked, “could have imagined the silos would have been built over there and then turned into a luxury hotel, or that two bridges would have been built here, or that their tiny village would grow into a large city?”

“What’s more interesting” I responded, “is if anyone today can envision what it will all look like in another two hundred years!”

And my response then got me thinking. Could it be possible to imagine what Launceston will end up looking like in two hundred years—and, what about our church? What will our church will look like in two hundred years?

relevance-intact-the-place-of-the-church-in-tasmania

Tasmanian churches play a vital role in our state as a moral compass and social leader. Our moral compass was given to us 2,000 years ago by Christ  who then commissioned the Church to preach, teach, and care in His Name. The Church’s role as a social leader was instigated by Jesus who embraced the shunned, condemned oppressors of the vulnerable, and upheld the sacredness of every human life and taught His followers to do likewise. Two thousand years later, Tasmanian churches gather weekly and continue proclaim the good news that Jesus taught, care for the poor and homeless, feed the hungry, welcome refugees, and provide thousands of young Tasmanians with an education. This is why the former Examiner deputy editor recently described the Tasmanian Church as “the most fundamental pillar in society” but then described it as being led by “a pious clique of fancy robed hypocrites, with less and less relevance each year to the wider community” (28/8/2022). The basis for his sharp criticism is grounded in his assessment that the Tasmanian Church has not recalibrated its moral compass to align itself with culture’s progressive values. Here’s why I disagree with the esteemed former deputy editor.

THE GOOD SAMARITAN AND THE INN-KEEPER

WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR? The Jewish leaders had a very strict understanding of who God accepted and who God rejected. Obviously, they taught, God had accepted the Jews as His favourite – particularly Jewish men. Jewish women were sort of accepted, but only as second-class members of God’s people. This obviously also meant that unless a gentile (a non-Jew) converted to Judaism they could not be accepted by God. Therefore, God rejected all gentiles — and He especially rejected Roman gentiles — but He reserved His ultimate rejection for Samaritans! Jesus then tells the Temple-lawyer the story of the Good Samaritan.

THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.