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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Follow Me AS I FOLLOW JESUS

We all walk a path in life that is set before us. We start with very little experience and knowledge about the purpose of our life and the world beyond us. All of humanity experiences joy, wisdom, strength, weakness, suffering and hardship, especially those who are “contending for the faith”. Knowing Jesus is a very special part of this life journey.

A CERTAIN GOD

We can be reasonably certain about many things. In fact, without this certainty about life, none of us could function. We can be certain that tonight the sun will ‘set’. Tomorrow the sun will ‘rise’. After the February 28th it will be February 29th. This year there will be international unrest and much political instability in many parts of the world. In the coming months global warming will be identified by politicians as the source of floods and wildfires. Several high profile international celebrities will die this year. Archaeologists will make a discovery that will require some aspects of history to be rewritten. And you will certainly have one of the most memorable moments in your life in the coming days. You see, there are clearly some things we can be quite certain about. However, there are some aspects about our future that we cannot be certain about, yet in those moments we can be certain about what we should do.

LOW COST LIVING

Turn on any TV or radio news lately and there’s bound to be a story about the current “cost of living crisis”. We all feel it. Initially most people accepted the widespread price-rises were caused by 2020-21 pandemic lockdowns. But whatever the reasons for the rapid price hikes over the past two years, every time we go to the supermarket we feel it again. While governments are striving to curb the impact of this cost of living crisis, there remains a way to enjoy low cost living. The key to this is recognising that the most valuable things in life are literally priceless. The path to enjoying low-cost living is to be found in Christ, and what He taught — and it begins with treasure.

How To Know Jesus Better

It’s a scary thought to realise that the Jesus we have been told about and worship may not really be known to us at all. We can ‘know’ about someone or something, but not really know them. In Christian circles it’s often referred to as head knowledge not heart knowledge.

Knowing Christ Better

As a church, this year’s theme is coming closer to Christ by getting to know Him better. I feel that I am “the least qualified person” to tell anyone how this is done — but someone else has already claimed this distinction – the apostle Paul. After decades of hearing directly from Christ, seeing extraordinary miracles, being taken to heaven temporarily, planting churches across the Roman Empire, he could still say I would give anything to really know Christ – even if it meant suffering like He did! (Phil. 3:7-10). Therefore, I could say: If you do this or that, you will then know Christ better – but in my view, it’s not as easy as that! How we develop our relationship with Christ is shaped by several factors including our personality, our life experiences, our physical health and fitness, and our relationships with others (especially our parents and particularly our father). In fact, I believe that there is a relationship between how we have learned to build relationships with others (and notably how we have learned to relate to those who are closest to us) and how we then proceed to have a relationship with God. Even though I have expressed my lack of qualifications in telling anyone how to have a closer relationship with Christ, I still can, like one hungry beggar to another hungry beggar, offer you a few of the morsels of food that I’ve been able to find.

SOME PEOPLE HAVE AMAZING BUTS

I know of several people with amazing buts. There’s Jo’, Mo’, Sam, Esther, Jerry, and others. Each of these people were gifted by God with an amazing but that changed there life and the course of human history. Sometimes these gifts came with a …then, or …God, or …the LORD. When it comes to the size of things, a but is a relatively small thing (in Greek it can be just two letters: de) but it can have huge implications and enormously great blessings for multitudes. I hope to show you how this was the case with each of the people I have chosen as samples, and then show you how God is your God of buts.

OPEN

What does the word ‘open’ mean to you? Like language itself, it is like any word in which the meaning only comes from the context in which it is used. I can think of at least 12 different understandings of this word, some of which I will point out, most I will not, and one that I focus on because it is prophetically important for where we are at as a church at this crucial time.

ONE THING I HAVE TO SAY

​I’m always amazed at the really cool events I’d organised for my kids to experience, so that they might have happy memories – but now they don’t remember it except the random comment someone made in the car trip on the way there or what snack was eaten. Conversely, if you make a mistake, well that one is remembered! Once I drove Andrew’s car and just lightly hit something so it ended up with an annoying 2cm scratch. The mistake is (still) there in full view to anyone who looks. Is Andrew going to remember this above the years of my devotion to him? (Not likely, but some people do remember the wrong for way too long!) If you had the choice, what one thing would you want to be remembered for? What one thing would you want your family to remember? It’s not often going to be the thing you have in mind.

‘Famous last words’ comes from the hope that you’ll be remembered for them. If you were given the privilege of being able to articulate as the important thing to say, to be remembered by all, what would it be? Would it be a reflection on your love toward someone? Would it be a directive on how to have the best life? Would it be that you wished you had done something? Someone once mused, ‘would your dying words be that you’d wished you’d spent just one more day in the office’? (Not likely.)

AT THE END OF THIS YEAR I WILL RECOUNT 12 WONDERFUL THINGS (An Explication of Psalm 9)

This is my last end-of-year Pastor’s Desk post. When the head of our Live-stream ministry, Sari, asked me what I was thankful for this year, my immediate answer was obvious and predictable. But since then, I have considered that I also have eleven other things for which I am grateful to GOD for. In this last ever end-of-year Pastor’s Desk please indulge as I share my heartfelt thanks to God and for those God has used to bless me this year.

HE WAS BORN A KING

The king who reigned over Judea when Jesus was born was Herod the Great. Herod had no legitimate claim to the throne of Israel. He was from an Idumean noble family who supported the Roman occupation of Palestine. As a reward he was appointed by the Roman Senate as the King of Judea. Despite his attempts to curry favour with the Jews, including several major public works programs (including completing the temple reconstruction) he was still largely unpopular among the Jews. Little wonder then that when the Magi arrived in Jerusalem with their large retinue and requested to view the birth of the prophesied King of the Jews, Herod was emotionally threatened by this revelation. Herod immediately ordered an enquiry from the chief priests and religious scribes.