home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > July > THE UPSTREAM VISION

 The best way for me to explain to you the Upstream Vision is to tell you a story. A man was walking through the bush with his dog enjoying the outdoors, the fragrances of nature, the warmth of the sun’s rays, the chirping of the birds, the sounds of the flowing river, and — suddenly he heard the panicked cries for help coming from the river. He ran to the riverbank and saw a hapless victim being swept downstream. He threw himself into raging river and eventually managed to rescue the drowning man further downstream. The next day this bushwalker’s heroism was featured on the front-page of the local newspaper. That day, he and his dog attempted to complete their previous day’s interrupted walk — but it was interrupted again by the cries for help from yet another drowning person being swept downstream! In fact, for the next five days the same dog-walking bushwalker vainly tried to complete his walk but was kept busy rescuing drowning people being swept downstream! Recognising the growing crisis, the municipal councillors met and decided to apply for a government grant to be able to station a full-time lifeguard on the riverbank. After the lifeguard was hired, he too was kept busy rescuing people being swept downstream. The council then applied for further federal funding as the lifeguard was barely able to keep up with the numbers of rescued victims now requiring to be driven into town to be hospitalised. The council received their funding to build a permanent ambulance station next to the lifeguard station. Soon there were multiple full-time lifeguards and ambulance drivers working around the clock to rescue and hospitalise victims.The council then needed to employ a CEO to manage the worksite and the CEO, of course, needed an executive assistant who needed a personal assistant who needed an admin’ assistant to help oversee the busy operation. Then the predictable happens! There was a government funding cut-back and the council decide that they could no longer afford the lifeguards, the ambulance drivers, admin’ assistants, or the personal assistant, but decided to keep the CEO and his executive assistant.

Around this time, the dog-walking bushwalker decided one more time to complete his walk through the bush track. As he went deeper into the bush going upstream and alongside the river, he walked over the foot bridge spanning the river and noticed that there are two $2 planks of timber missing in the foot bridge through which everyone had been falling into river!

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet … In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:13, 16

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20

The Christian Church has had a long tradition of working ‘downstream’ in and amongst society’s deepest and darkest problems. In fact, Christianity itself was birthed in one of the darkest hours in human history. Dr. F.W. Boreham has noted that at the darkest points in human history when all hope seemed lost, it was often the case that God’s response to such bleak times was to send a baby into the world. The greatest example of this customary divine response was the birth of Mankind’s eternal Saviour, Jesus the Christ.

¶ But when the right time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent Him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that He could adopt us as His very own children.
Galatians 4:4-5 NLT

 Consider the unlikely geo-political-cultural backdrop at the time of Christ’s incarnation. 

  • It was a time of widespread political corruption at every level of government and administration.

  • It was a time of rampant sexual abuse of women and children.

  • It was a time of economic suppression of the poor.

  • It was a time of educational deprivation reducing in ignorance and illiteracy which placed the uneducated in a vulnerable state of manipulation.

  • It was a time of widespread fictional religious ideas that played on this widespread ignorance.

When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them,
because they were harassed and helpless,
like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9:36

But then…

 When the Christ came, and Christianity was birthed –

  • The place of women was elevated (women were the first witnesses to, and proclaimers of, Christ’s resurrection for example)

  • The position of slaves was redeemed (Gal. 3:28)

  • The practice of baby exposure (were unwanted babies were left out at night in forests or the market square to be ravaged by wild animals) was countered by Christians actively rescuing these abandoned babies (most of whom were girls)

  • Churches were planted around the Empire which became centres of learning which countered the pervasive errors and false ideas widely accepted by the masses (1Pet. 1:14).

  •  Lepers were  cared for and their wounds tended to.

  • When plagues came, Christians were at the forefront of caring for and nursing the sick and dying (“During plague periods in the Roman Empire, Christians made a name for themselves. Historians have suggested that the terrible Antonine Plague of the 2nd century, which might have killed off a quarter of the Roman Empire, led to the spread of Christianity, as Christians cared for the sick and offered a spiritual model whereby plagues were not the work of angry and capricious deities but the product of a broken Creation in revolt against a loving God.” [SOURCE]). Christians became known as “those who ran into the plague—not from it!” 

  • Over the centuries, Christians pioneered and established public hospitals, public schools, and universities.

  • Missionaries were sent to the far-flung parts of the world bringing ‘social lift’ wherever they went.

  • Grounded in the emerging Christian worldview, modern science was birthed and promoted by: Galileo, Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Johannes Kepler, Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, Anders Celsius, Sir William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Edwin Hubble, and Hugh Ross.
Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727)

Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727)

“This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being….All variety of created objects which represent order and life in the universe could happen only by the willful reasoning of its original Creator, whom I call the ‘Lord God’….He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient; that is, His duration reaches from eternity to eternity; His presence from infinity to infinity; He governs all things, and knows all things that are or can be done. I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.”
-Sir. Isaac Newton

But then…

 In AD 312 a new trajectory was also seeded into Christianity. This eventually led to the message of the saving gospel being subjugated by the lure of political power. Over the ensuing centuries, many of those who rose to high leadership positions within the Church, whose Christianity was quite questionable, used their ecclesiastical (“Church”) position to further their own interests not the interests of Christ or others. In many respects, the expression “Dark Ages” refers to this superficial period of Christian leadership who were more interested in political power rather than spiritual purity. History tells us that wherever the light that God had ordained to shine through His people ceased, there has been a void and a darkness that the enemy has been too keen to fill. In the late 600s and into the early 700s, when the Dark Ages were nearing their darkest, a new religion challenged Christianity—but not merely with strange ideas, but with the edge of the sword. Church leaders responded, proving their ignorance of the Scriptures, recruiting mercenary soldiers to fight in the crusades. This merger of Church and State led to what became known as Christendom and became not just a political force, but by the Medieval period it had also become a military force as well.

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
Revelation 2:5

 

But then…

John Wycliffe (ca. 1328 – 1384)

 In AD 1328 God introduced a baby into the world by the name John Wycliffe. His arrival marked the early days of what would later become known as the Enlightenment Period and The Reformation. The Dark Ages would be soon be over because John Wycliffe would take the ancient manuscript copies of the New Testament in their original language and translate them into the language spoken by common Englishmen of his day. The Holy Spirit then sent William Tyndale, another Englishman, to build on the work of Wycliffe. He translated the whole Bible into English and paid for it with his life. As more and more people were able to read or hear the Bible in their own language the more they realised that what the Church was teaching did not accord with the Bible. Added to these flames of revival, in Italy the gospel according to the Bible was being preached by Girolamo Savonarola, in Switzerland by Huldrych Zwingli, by the great Czech preacher John Hus in Bohemia, in Germany by Martin Luther, and in Geneva by John Calvin. These flames of revival were fanned by the Holy Spirit into the 1700s with the great preaching ministries of John Wesley and George Whitefield who both saw tens of thousands of people come to Christ and led to William Wilberforce the English Parliamentarian become the patron of around 70 societies which included the abolition of slavery, the establishment of the Bible Society, the formation of the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty against Animals (RSPCA), prison reform (including the principle of Habeas Corpus), and the establishment of free public schools.

Billy Graham preaching in Los Angeles 1947

A young Billy Graham preaching in Los Angeles 1947

In the 1800s when the light of the Enlightenment finally enabled people to see that scientific facts should not be disregarded merely because the Church had claimed the Bible said so, more and more people began to openly challenge the claims of the Bible. This was especially so from November 24th, 1859, when Charles Darwin published, Origin of The Species. This helped to fuel a movement in Tübingen among German theologians known as Liberalism which denied nearly all of the supernatural claims of the Bible including the virgin birth of Christ, His miracles, and His resurrection. Liberalism attempted to reduce the purpose of Christianity merely to achieving the newly coined term, social justice (largely caring for the poor and the downtrodden). But by the late 19th century and early in the 20th century a fresh move of the Holy Spirit began to reignite the Christians around the world to return to accepting the supernatural aspects of the Bible as true. The Holy Spirit raised up many great preachers who built extraordinarily large congregations and experienced phenomenal miracles in the process. A new breed of evangelists around the world helped to strengthen this new move of God with thousands being converted to Christ all around the world. In particular, a young dairy farmer from just outside Charlotte, North Carolina, Billy Graham, would end up preaching to around 2.2 billion people throughout his evangelistic meetings, with 3.3 million people coming to know Christ as their Saviour! Billy Graham is largely credited with creating the term Evangelicalism. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has continued to be focused on evangelism and has grown into one of the world’s most respected rapid response relief agencies. 

Billy Graham preaching in London in 1956 where more than 2 million Brits came out to hear him

Billy Graham preaching in London in 1956 where more than 2 million Brits came out to hear him

[NEXT:  Part 2 – How the Holy Spirit is inspiring a new generation of “Upstream” Christians to develop strategies for solving the world’s greatest and darkest problems in a neighbourhood near you!]  

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

3 Comments

  1. LYDIA

    Thank you Andrew! This is brilliant. Your address takes us by the hand and walks us thru history. It shows us where the problem lay in that missing bit of timber on the bridge and all the resulting comical and yet deadly results of not zeroing in on the core problem that people NEED a Saviour to save them from themselves or they will just drown! Seriously its a given. Historically we roll from one calamity to another yet each time there was a ‘BUT then’…and in time, God’s time Christianity was birthed and each time things looked bad again there was a ‘BUT then! Plagues have come and plagues will go and the call is ever there. From Red Salmon which swim upstream every year that cycle of life continues on! I like that “Upstream” analogy, upstream against the tide of the climate of the day, the wayward thinking of society where history has repeated itself and where our LORD has provided the answer throughout all of history, continuously throughout history – new life in Him – the only solution that can possibly be found – Jesus – and He had compassion on them. Compassion! So, ‘Upstream’ we will go!

    Reply
  2. John

    History is not bunk

    Reply
  3. Mike Sladden

    Very good thank you, Pastor Andrew. On the whole, medicine is the same regarding downstream and upstream. We spend most of our time and resources treating the sick (downstream); little time and few resources to prevent people getting sick (upstream). It does not make a lot of sense. Blessings, Brother Mike

    Reply

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AMAZING ACCESS

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WHY FINDING TRUTH MATTERS

How can we determine whether a claim is true or false? Some people think there are different kinds of truth — my truth, their truth, and your truth. But how do they know that their assessment of truth is true? After all, their assessment – that there is my/their/your truth might just be based on their truth rather than the truth. Truth has certain qualities that distinguishes it from what is false-
 Truth corresponds to reality.
 Truth is verifiable (that is, if it is true, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is falsifiable (that is, if it is false, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is sometimes testable (that is, claims that are experiential can be tested by experience – including scientific claims, historic claims, and existential claims).
We have good reasons for the believing that the Bible is true because it is the divinely inspired, reliable and authoritative Word of God which has been superintendedly preserved by the Holy Spirit (read more about this).

THE 5 MOST IMPORTANT YEARS OF ANYONE’S LIFE

Parents, Kids Church leaders, and Christian school teachers should be intentional about shaping children to be fully devoted followers of Christ who have reasons for believing Christianity is true – which shapes them into virtuous contributors to society and to find their role in God’s Kingdom. This will be one of the necessary and indispensable means for the Church to fulfil the Great Commission of Christ.

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I AM WHO I AM BUT I AM NOT WHO I USED TO BE BUT I AM NOT YET WHO I WILL BE

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WHO DOES THIS EPHESIANS FELLA THINK HE IS?!

It may well still be the best-selling book of all time – and continues year-by-year to be so – but certainly is not the best-read of our current times! If there was ever any doubt about this, the events this week in Hobart, at St. Mary’s (Catholic) College Girl’s School, should remove all doubt! A furore erupted over the news that the prescribed Scripture reading for the year-end graduation celebration, which incorporated a Mass, was “Wives submit to your husbands” taken from Ephesians. Callers into ABC radio’s breakfast program decried this assault against women – especially young, vulnerable girls. One caller, responding to the news that the text being used was a citation from Ephesians, denounced Ephesians and apparently demanded, “Just who does this Ephesians bloke think he is?!” Another caller stated, “Why are they quoting ancient Roman philosophers in the twenty-first century?!” And yet another caller somehow linked all religious wars to passages like this one in the Bible! He remarked, “I’m an atheist. All wars are started by those who are religious! No war was ever started by atheists!” (Perhaps he had never heard of Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Vladimir Putin, who were collectively responsible for the deaths of over 20,000,000?) This furore led to the Archbishop conceding that the Ephesians passage did not have to be used at the graduation ceremony. But this furore has highlighted just how unaware many Tasmanians are about what the Bible is, what is actually says, and why it says it. And I am now about to correct this deficiency.  

THE LORD IS MY ROCK

Of the many tributes paid to her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was the often noted reflection that during her reign the world underwent a series of rapid changes that were dramatic and unprecedented in human history. There were technological inventions that revolutionised the way people could access international travel options enabling them to be virtually anywhere in the world within a matter of hours. New forms of communication emerged with the development of a global satellite communications network enabling people to watch Neil Armstrong take his one giant leap Live on their black-and-white TV screens (as I did in the corridors of Corio Primary School in 1969). Space exploration, the stuff previously just in the realm of science fiction writers, became a reality with manned and unmanned voyages to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But the past one hundred years have also been a time of great upheaval with empires crumbling, governments toppled, wars waged, genocides committed, pandemics raging, nations birthed, rulers assassinated, and massive refugee movements from oppressive Islamic and Communist regimes. Added to this has been the demise of professional journalism and the rise of internet-citizen-journalism where it is now common for TV News reports to feature footage taken from someone’s cell-phone which was posted on social media rather than the more expensive option of sending their own film crew there. And while we’re mentioning the internet, let’s not forget to mention – the internet. This alone has possibly been the most monumental change in the way people communicate, work, learn, and shop. But while it was noted that the Queen had witnessed all of these many changes, it was also noted that the Queen herself was an unchanging constant during all these upheavals who brought about a sense of stability, peace and reassurance. To millions of people around the world, she was their rock in a world of turmoil and change. Yet this was only possible because she herself had an immovable, dependable rock upon which she had built her life.

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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.