Andrew Baker

In Christ is Real Meaning

In Christ is Real Meaning

It’s very possible to be incredibly passionate about the “what” of life (what we do, what we believe is right, what would make the world a better place), without even considering the bigger question: the “why?” of life.

But the “why” really matters. Let’s examine two different perspectives on the “why” of life, and then how the Christian “why” compares.

The Birth of the Church

Many of us have mixed feelings when it comes to birthdays. Some go out of their way to celebrate while others go out of their way to avoid and forget. This month we celebrate the birth of the church which began on the day of Pentecost. Here is one birthday that is truly worth celebrating. 

In the gospel of Luke ch24 we read that before Jesus ascended to the Father He commissioned His disciples to proclaim the gospel to all nations but first gave them this command: ’stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (v49). Once the day of Pentecost had arrived the Spirit of God fell in power upon this unique group of Jews and Gentiles, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, filling them with the power of God to accomplish this great calling. 

 

There’s much we can learn from this account. Firstly, the church was born in power. Jesus didn't say to His disciples. Wait in the city until you get you get it all together, until you’ve completed both the beginning and advanced diplomas of church growth strategy 101 or at least until you’ve learned the top 10 of modern pop worship choruses. Rather He said wait until you have received power. So often the greatest hindrance to the advance of the glory of God is the church trying to do the work of God without the power of God. We desperately need His power. Only the power of God can save, only the power of God can transform lives, only the power of God can convict us of our sin. May we never arrive at a place where we forget that as the Church we are in desperate need of His power to accomplish His work.

Secondly the Church was birthed in His personal presence. 

This wasn't just an encounter with an abstract manifestation of His Glory but an encounter with the personal presence of Holy Spirit. We worship a God who himself marks his people with the empowering reality of who He is. He is a personal God. 

Finally the Church was birthed in wonder. I always wonder what the disciples were expecting as they waited. Certainly they seemed as amazed as everybody else when all of a sudden there was a mighty rushing wind, tongues of fire and people acting like they were overcome with wine. This wasn't a calm, quiet, polite, prayer meeting. It was so wild and loud that people came rushing from all around to see what all the commotion was about! In fact whenever the Holy Spirit moves in scripture there is a sense of wonder. Anything can happen. Buildings are shaken, chains fall off, people get saved, great awe comes upon everyone, signs, wonders and miracles take place and pretty soon even shadows become dangerous. The church was born with this sense of wild wonder. Do we live with that same sense today of excitement and expectancy to see what God might do in our midst today?

 

There’s a prayer that is one of our foundational calls as a church and it is one that I have been reminded of many times recently, its found inthe book of Acts: 

‘And now Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ (Acts 4:29-30)

 

I believe this is a season of praying ‘bold prayers’ and I want to encourage us to join this month to declare this prayer together. May these be days of His power, His presence and wild wonder!!

 

Blessings

Andrew 

True Worship

“The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”. (John 4:23–24)

 

Of all aspects of our modern church life one that is perhaps most mis-understood and even neglected is worship. For some worship is unnecessary and uncomfortable, for some worship is a warm up to more important aspects of a service, for others worship is a performance that is more focused on the ones who are worshipping rather than the One who is worthy of all worship.

 

A.W. Tozer writes in his well known book ‘Whatever happened to worship’: "The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God, and the church is famished for want of his presence’. Worship is the missing jewel of the church. We have become a generation of people who worship our work, work at our play and play at our worship’. In the midst of so many different expressions and perspectives of worship what is the ‘true worship’ that Jesus speaks of and encourages us to pursue?

 

Throughout the scriptures we see a continual invitation to ‘come worship the Lord’. What we sometimes fail to realise is that this invitation is not the Lord inviting us to what He needs, as much as it is the Lord inviting us to what we need. In fact there are few invitations more incredible, more powerful, and more of a priority than worship. We are invited to that which we were created for and that which we need; an encounter with the living God and a life-changing glimpse of the greatness, the awesomeness, the wonder, the power, the mercy, the goodness, and the loving kindness of God. Worship is that place where we see Him for who He is, the one who is worthy of all worship. Then as we behold His majesty, His might and His worth, we let nothing get in the way of our pursuit of Him in worship, not because we have to, but because we get to.  

 

True worship is when we come as a people with a genuine desire to worship God for who He is. Not to be blessed but instead to bless Him and to give our lives in that pursuit. We look not so much for the moments but the mission and the lifestyle of becoming true worshippers, revealing and bringing us into an encounter of the fullness of who God is. It is this true worship that will lead to the kind of spiritual visitation that ignites churches; heals brokenness, strips away religious facades and restores the glory to God to His Church in a way that will cause the world will sit up, take notice and declare that ‘surely God is among you’ (1 Cor 14:25).

 

This month as a church we have have been preparing to do some worship recording not because we think its a good idea but rather because we have felt from the Lord that this is the season for us to be doing this. The songs that we will be recording have been written in response to what we feel the Lord has put on our hearts for this season in our church, and indeed the church.  They give voice to His heart and prophetically declare His purposes for us at this time. We believe they are songs in season. We invite you to join us over the coming month as we pursue the Lord in this way and together seek to become what the Lord Himself calls the ‘true worshippers’. 

 

Blessings

Andrew

 

Lord would you open our eyes again!

“…as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal”. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

 

There’s a great story recorded in 2 Kings Ch 6. At this time the king of Syria was at war with Israel but his plans were being constantly thwarted by Elisha’s prophetic insight. The king gets so frustrated that he sends horses, chariots and a ‘great army’ to capture the Prophet. This great Syrian army comes by night and surrounds the entire city where Elisha lived. The next morning Elisha’s servant rises early to find a great army camping on their doorstep. In a state of panic he rushes back to Elisha crying out ‘what shall we do’? I imagine Elisha at this point sitting quietly, perhaps enjoying his morning coffee in his favourite chair, a picture of perfect peace. With a mischievous grin he turns to his servant saying, ‘Why are you afraid?’. Why am I afraid, thinks the servant, why do you think I am afraid?, there’s an entire army sitting on our doorstep! Elisha continues, ‘those who are with us are more than those who are with them, Lord would you open his eyes’. The Lord opens the eyes of the servant who instantly sees the mountains all around them full of horses and chariots of fire. 

 

There is a greater reality beyond our reality. In 2 Corinthians Paul encourages us to look not to the things that are seen, which are transient, temporary and passing away, and look to the things that are unseen, which are eternal. There's no doubt that there is always the ‘seen’ things of life in front of us. Jobs to do, tasks to accomplish, mouths to feed, mountains to climb, battles to fight. Yet in the midst of the ‘seen’ things how much of our time is spent looking to the ‘unseen’ reality beyond this reality. There may be an army camped at your doorstep but there is a greater reality than what's in front of you, if we will just have eyes to see it. 

 

I believe we are in a time when the Lord is desiring to open our eyes to His reality. There’s much in front of us that can easily consume our attention. His invitation is to look past the ‘seen’ to the things that are ‘unseen’. He is wanting to align our hearts with His heart, that we might then partner with His purposes on the earth at this critical time. My prayer is that we would be a people who have eyes to see the greater reality of the King and His Kingdom. Lord would you open our eyes again! 

 

Blessings

Andrew

The Word of God

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will endure forever. (Isaiah 40:8).

 

The Bible, the word of God, is unlike any other book! It is the most incredible literary masterpiece of all time. Its scope is unrivalled detailing the greatest good, the greatest evil, the greatest courage and sacrifice, and indeed the ultimate sacrifice - the Saviour of all mankind! Its depth is un-equalled exploring the greatest mysteries of life, the deepest depravities and longings of the heart of mankind, the nature of God and the universe and revealing to us truth. There is only one Book on earth, only one Book in the history of mankind that can ever answer all the fundamental questions of life. There is only one Book that holds the key to our eternal destiny: the ultimate love story, written in blood on a wooden cross. 

 

If that wasn't already enough, only the Bible has the audacity to lay claim to being alive, God breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), perfect, (Psalm 19:7) and having the power to transform lives. The power of God’s word will:

-build you up (Acts 20:32)

-teach, reproof, correct, train in righteousness, and equip for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

-is living and powerful able to pierce to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12)

-renew your mind (Romans 12:2)

-bring joy and delight to the heart (Jeremiah 15:16)

-be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).

-revive the soul, making wise the simple, rejoicing the heart and enlightening the eyes (Psalm 19:7-8); just to mention a few….

 

We live in a society that has strived hard to remove and erode God’s word from any public context in the name of tolerance, equality and discrimination whilst at the same time watching in horror at the rise in lawlessness that abounds. Its a bit like removing traffic signals that govern our transportation then complaining about the chaos that ensues. Even in many churches the Word of God has ceased to hold the place of honour and prominence that it once had. Seeker friendly emotional based preaching has replaced the proclamation of the eternal life changing truths of scripture. Increasingly everybody seems to have an opinion and know what they feel about everything but fewer seem to know what God’s word actually says. At times we can get caught reading all about God’s word but never actually reading, studying and meditating upon God’s word itself.

 

Each year over 1 million new books will be published and read, each day over 2 million blogs posts will be perused, and each hour over 200 million emails will be opened. In the midst of this age of information overload how much time do we spend reading the only book that truly has the power transform our lives, God’s word the Bible? There’s no time like the present to remind ourselves of the radical and bold claims of God’s word, remembering this incredible gift that we have in our possession, and renew our passion for the un-rivalled, and un-equalled, living word of God! 

 

Andrew


 

Faith

 “The assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. Hebrews 11:1

 

Faith seems to often be a mis-used and mis understood word in our modern vernacular. Sometimes faith is used akin to wishful thinking or vain imagination with little substance or reality. Other times faith can be mis-represented as some magic formula to achieve any thing we might desire. Biblical faith is far from both of these. 

Hebrews 11:1 describes Faith as: “The assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. The writer then goes onto describe the outworking of faith as follows; by faith the Israelites crossed the Red Sea on dry Land, by faith Jericho was defeated, by faith kingdoms were conquered, by faith justice was enforced, promises were obtained, the mouths of lions stopped, the power of fire quenched, weakness made strong, foreign armies put to flight, persecution endured and the dead received back to life (paraphrase v32-35)…..and the list goes on!  We would have to acknowledge that there are few things mentioned in scripture that have greater power, greater potency and greater promise than faith!

So what does this kind of faith look like? And how is it that we can live with this kind of faith? 

Back in Hebrews 11:1 we are told firstly that faith is an ‘assurance of hope’. Assurance means to be fully sure, fully steadfast or fully secure in our hope (which is Christ). The Amplified version puts it this way, faith is: ‘leaning on Him with absolute confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness’. We could say then that faith is to be ‘fully leaning upon the present promises of Christ’. Secondly we are told faith is ‘conviction of things not seen’. This word for conviction can be literally translated ‘the means by which a thing is proved or tested’. This implies both the process and the resulting proof. So faith by nature is not static but has an element of needing to be lived out, a proving process or a putting into action. We could say faith involves both a life lived fully leaning upon the present promises of Christ, and fully living out the proving process. 

There is a faith that moves mountains, conquerers nations, raises the dead, endures hardships, and without which we can-not please God. This faith grows as we become a people fully leaning upon the present promises, and fully living out the proving process. What would this people look like, a community of faith filled believers fully leaning upon and fully living out Christ in our lives, community and our city? Lets go deeper together and discover the incredible power and promise of faith. 

 

Blessings

Andrew

He is

For I want you to know how great a burden I have for you… to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ.
— Colossians 2:1-3

Despite living in an unprecedented age of communication, there are moments when the very tools that make this possible end up distorting the message. I experienced one of those moments recently when I received a text message from one of our other Pastors saying "I am overcome with FOMO". Having no idea if this was a person or a disease I responded "I'm sorry to hear that. Is it contagious?" The response came back “LOL, no I don't think so. FOMO means Fear of Missing Out… you need teenagers in your house".

Well for now I think I’m quite happy in my ignorance. 

Point being, often the message becomes distorted. The apostle Paul writes to the Colossians for exactly this reason. He is so encouraged to hear that many people have responded to the gospel and put their faith in Jesus. However he wants to encourage them and ensure that the truth of Jesus they received was not distorted or diminished in any way. 

Two words form the foundation of the incredible picture Paul paints of Christ in Chapter 1 of Colossians. He Is! He is the image of God, the Creator, He is Lord, He is the Sustainer, He is the Reconciler, our Sacrifice and our Redeemer, just to mention a few. In Chapter 2 Paul then switches gears to encourage the Colossians not to stop short of reaching the ‘full assurance of understanding and knowledge of God’s mystery which is Christ’ (Colossians 2:2).  Saying:  don't let vain philosophies cheat you (2:8), don't let religious activities rob you (2:16), don't let sin deceive you (3:5). See Christ in the fullness and wonder or all that He is. He is your life, He is your hope and He is your joy. (3:1-4)

There really is nothing that compares to this picture. There is nothing you could ever possibly add to who He is or what He has done. Don't even try, you’ll only make a mess. He is an infinitely glorious, all powerful God, who has redeemed us through the power of His blood and now offers us everlasting joy and satisfaction in himself.

Take a moment to reflect upon this picture of Christ. Has your perspective been tainted or diminished in anyway? Perhaps circumstances, busyness, striving, good works, selfishness or sin has clouded your vision. Take a moment today to bask in His glory and goodness, receive afresh His mercy, and enter into the fullness all that He is. May we too reach the ‘full assurance of understanding and knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ’!

Blessings

Andrew

Disciples - the call to follow Christ

Now great crowds accompanied him and he turned and said to them.. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
— Luke 14:25-33

Crowds pressed in from every side. News had spread through the entire region of this Jesus and people flocked from everywhere to see Him. Countless numbers testified to His healing power and the miraculous works they had seen. Some even said that He had raised the dead! Could this be the Messiah? The one whom they had prayed for, hoped for and longed for? One thing was clear, everyone wanted to be close enough to hear what Jesus had to stay. 

You might think that Jesus would seize this moment at the height of His ministry to appeal to the large crowds, pointing out all the benefits and advantages of following Him. Yet, rather than presenting the slick marketing campaign, with glossy promotional pictures and campaign sign up sheets, Jesus seizes the moment to talk about the hard call to be a disciple. One thing is very evident in this account; Jesus was not after large crowds, He was after disciples! Jesus was looking for a people who would follow regardless of the cost. Not a people of comfort but a people of character & commitment.

Recently I went on a bike ride with my two eldest daughters. From our house all paths are downhill meaning on the way back the path becomes steep and results in an often unpleasant return journey. In one such moment my eldest daughter turned to me exasperatedly and exclaimed, ‘Dad I’m fed up with all the uphill bits, why can we just do the easy bits, why can't it all just be downhill?’ I responded; ‘Darling there are two reasons: Firstly hills don't work that way (if you find one that only goes down let me know) secondly its the uphill journey that builds character, develops muscle and proves your ready to take on bigger challenges.’ 

The same is true in following Christ, we would much prefer all the easy bits without any of the hard work and often end up asking; shouldn't this be easier? Shouldn't this life following Christ be all downhill? Cant we just take the good bits and leave out the rest? Jesus specifically addresses this question. He doesn't promise followers a ‘gravy train ride’ or a silver platter full of instant gratification. Christ did not say, ‘If anyone will come after me, let him enjoy himself with indulgent pleasures, let him be lavishly adorned and drunk with delight’. Rather He says, ‘if anyone would come after me let me deny himself, take up his cross and follow me’. Christ repeatedly makes it clear that there must be a cross before the crown, suffering before glory, death before victory and sacrifice before reward. This is the heart of Christian discipleship.

It’s easy to enjoy the ride when it’s all downhill but are we ready to be disciples who are willing to discover this hard but glorious call of following Christ? Join us this month as we explore from scripture what this call to be disciples is all about!! 

Blessings

Andrew

What is the boast of your life?

But as for me, may I never boast, except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ...
— Galatians 6:9

There are a series of internet memes that do the rounds from time to time along the following lines,

“I don't mean to boast but ...”. Some of my favourite examples include: 

  • ‘I don’t mean to boast but: I just finished my three week fast in less than 3 hours 14 minutes’
  • ‘I don’t mean to boast but: This in now the 5th end of the world I have now survived’ 
  • 'I don’t mean to boast but: I just ate my lunch without taking a picture of myself first’
  • ‘I don't mean to boast but: if it weren’t for my incredible will power I would be exercising right now’

If we’re honest most of us don't mind a little boasting from time to time. In Galatians, Paul lays down an incredible challenge to never boast except in the Cross of Jesus Christ. Question is, why the Cross? Why not Christ’s majesty, Christ’s love or Christ’s divinity to mention just a few alternatives? Why specifically should the Cross be the boast of our lives?

Here are three foundational reasons why the Cross is, and always should be, the boast of our lives. 

Firstly, the Cross reveals the depths of our sin. We desperately want to make the boast of life ourselves, who we are and what we can do. The problem is that at the very best our righteousness is as filthy rags. There is a foolishness to boasting in self and a futility of boasting in works. The gospel confronts our inability to save ourselves. The Cross tears away the false foundations of human effort and merit, stripping away their false hopes and plowing up the hardened ground calling for true repentance. Leaving us then building on the only foundation that will stand, the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Secondly, the Cross proclaims the power of God unto salvation. Paul tells the Corinthian church that the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. How is the Cross, an instrument of death, the power of God? The Cross is the power of God because on it the greatest battle for the eternal destiny of all humanity was fought. On the Cross death was defeated, the power of sin was broken and the price for humanity was paid. Only the Cross can save, only the Cross can reconcile, only the Cross can raise us from the dead. The Cross is our victory.

Thirdly, the Cross forever focuses us on what Christ has done. Every other religion, philosophy and worldview points us to what we need to do. The Cross centres us on Christ declaring that the centre of our story is Him. It’s not about what you could ever do, it’s all about what He has already done. The Cross brings us back to that place where we realise we are so hopelessly and completely lost without Christ. So fully reliant and dependent upon His grace. And the only thing we can boast in is the incomparable love of a Saviour demonstrated on the Cross.

The reality is:  

I could boast of my righteousness, but I fall short daily OR I could boast in His perfect righteousness.

I could boast in my good works, but they fail continually OR I could boast of His continual goodness.  

I could boast of my devotion, but it can waver OR I could boast of His devotion to me that is un-shakeable.

I could boast of my love for God, but it’s fickle OR I can boast of His love for me that is stronger than death.

Will you make the boast of your life the Cross of Jesus Christ? 

Blessings, Andrew

Community

The place God has chosen to display His glory is always within a covenant He makes with a community of people.

It seems like such a strange paradox that we live in the most inter-connected generation in the history of humanity (you can fill the world in on your every move, every time you go to the bathroom, and take photos of the potato skins you ate for dinner) yet despite this, sociologists tell us we are now also the most dis-connected generation in human history.

How exactly has this happened? I would suggest that one contributing factor is the emphasis on self. My life, my rights, my choices ... isn't this all about me?

This stands in stark contrast to what Scripture proclaims. The Bible is all about community; from the Garden to the City. God is a community and the place God has chosen to display His glory is always within a covenant He makes with a community of people. When Jesus commissioned His disciples He gave them a blueprint for His Church so vast, so marvellous and innovative, a living breathing expanding community that would permeate and transform the whole world.

The New Testament uses a specific word to describe this unique relationship between believers;  ‘Koinonia’. Nineteen different times it is used and on each occasion it refers to this unique and special relationship. We don't have one word in English that fully encapsulates its meaning, but it could be translated: friendship, fellowship, community, partnership and much more. Koinonia is much deeper than pot-luck suppers, social activities, programs and services. It is a group of people deeply connected and committed to one another and partnering together to see the purposes of God released upon the Earth. The Lord’s desire is that we would become this unique company of people. We must return to Koinonia—but you can’t download it. There’s no app for it, and you can’t fake it.

Join us this month as we begin the year discovering from the Scriptures God’s heart for and the purpose of, true community.

Andrew