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Reflections on my visits to Sydney and Perth

The New Church in Australia.

There is a warm spot in my heart for the church in Australia- though my experience with it does not extend much beyond Sydney and Perth.  While some of that feeling may be attributed to the climate (hard to beat), there is spirit, determination and resiliency among the people there that is very impressive.

In Sydney, for example, one finds this image in people like Norman Heldon who is working in the church gardens every day.  Norman is 93 years old.  The people there work hard to take care of their beautiful little church.   Also, it is heartwarming to see the level of caring that the different families have shown toward Huiling as she copes with the recent passing of her husband Robert.

Robert, unfortunately arrived, in Hurstville to start as the congregation’s new pastor but passed away from a heart attack after only two weeks.  He came with hopes and a vision for evangelization that was compelling.  While his short tenure is traumatic for everyone there, it is possible that in his short stay he initiated a direction with the congregation that will serve well in future years.  We shall see what his legacy looks like.

Sydney, a major metropolitan area is something of an international crossroads.  Sydney harbor is beautiful, but also functional as a major import export center serving all of Asia.  This sets up an international buzz that seems to serve the church well.  With the church announcing itself on the internet, there is a gradual influx of visitors joining the congregation for Sunday worship.   With some shepherding of that process by a resident pastor, the congregation could soon be growing. In the mean time, the congregation is engaged with Bishop Keith in a search for a new pastor to take up where Robert left off.

Perth is a pearl of a city located on the Southwest coast of Australia.  There has been a New Church presence there since the early 1920’s.  It seems that the future there is as bright as the sun kissed beaches surrounding the city.   Perth is currently a boomtown that is growing exponentially due to the natural gas and minerals that are mined in the area.  As with Sydney there are two groups worshipping there, one which is a part of the Australian Association and the other affiliated with the General Church.  Many of the events held in the region are combined efforts.  While the General Church group in Perth is without a resident pastor, the group meets regularly for Sunday worship, Bible studies, etc.

They worship in a beautiful rented facility in South Perth.  When I conducted worship there were about 25 people in attendance.

My visit there included preaching, holding several classes, pastoral visiting and conducting a planning session.  If the group heads in the direction that it intends, I would not be surprised to see it growing to the size where it could sustain a resident pastor in the space of just a few years.

From a pastoral perspective, my trip to Sydney and Perth was uplifting.  I felt like I was witnessing the Lord doing something special through the efforts of the church members in this far off corner of the planet.

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The Lord’s Forgiveness

The Lord’s Forgiveness

A few amazing teachings on how the Lord forgives:

“The Lord is never angry, never takes revenge, hates, condemns, punishes, throws anyone into hell, or tempts him.  Thus the Lord never does evil to anyone!” (True Christian Religion 650)

“There is in fact a sphere continually radiated from the Lord which raises all to heaven.  This fills the whole of both the spiritual and natural worlds.  It is like a strong current in the ocean, which invisibly draws a ship along.  All who believe in the Lord and live according to His commandments come within that sphere or current and are raised up.”   (True Christian Religion 652)

These are powerful teachings speaking to how hard the Lord is working for your salvation.   Because the Lord’s purpose is blessing people with heavenly life, He is always working to help people let go of their evils.   Another passage from the True Christian Religion says: “the Lord being mercy itself, forgives everyone his sins, and does not hold even one of them against a person.”  (TCR 539)  Wow!

Even so, forgiveness does not come in a moment.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  One is he complexity of the lusts that are attached to each evil.  In Divine Providence, we read: “There are thousands of lusts which enter into and compose each evil.” (Divine Providence 279 [5])  The practice of repentance gradually clips away these evil ties over time releasing the person from the addiction associated with that evil – that takes time!

A fascinating defination of ‘forgiveness’ is found in the Arcana Caelestia:  “being able to be maintained by the Lord in the good of love and the truths of faith and to be withheld from evils and falsities constitutes the forgiveness of sins”  (Arcana Caelestia 9448).

Really, that means that a person can’t forgive another person of their sins – only the Lord can do that.   There are tons of passages in the Bible directing us to forgive others.  How is this possible?  Rather than taking responsibility for another’s sins, the Lord teaches that true forgiveness is: “regarding someone not from the point of evil but of good” (AC 7697).  That is a bigger issue.  It involves letting go of resentments, hurt and anger related with a people who have caused you harm.   So ‘how many times should we forgive our brother who has sinned against us?  Seventy times seven – basically an infinite number because we are taught to train ourselves to view others from good rather than evil.  That is a high road that involves the discipline of repentance.

Financial Impact of New Planting Model on Denomination

Here are 2 spreadsheets taking the data from the Austin Plant model and asking the question of what is the overall financial impact on the funding denomination if we were to roll out a new church plant every other year.  The two spread sheets are very similar in conclusion, however, I favor the model assuming 30% success, 30% failure and 30% moderate success because it more closely mirrors success statistics in church planting in the United States today.GC Plantexpns303030 GC Plant expense raw GC Plantexpns303030

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Model for Austin Texas Church Plant in 2010

There are many strategies for starting new churches that have been used throughout the ages.  The Austin model is one we developed after intensive research evaluating what would provide the highest chances for a new movement to gain momentum and permanence in a short amount of time.  You might notice that the plan includes the concept that plant congregations should be using their resources to sow the seeds for future church plants.  As such, we see this as the beginning of a new system that is replicating.   In time, this system will serve as the key force for establishing New Church Congregations at a level we have never been able to accomplish using an endowment driven model. This new model while initially supported by endowment, ultimately will be funded by other successful church plants.  He hope you will help us kick the tires of this model through dialogue and sharing your insights for how to start new churches.  Special thanks go to Mac Frazier for the countless hours devoted to this project. Lets plan to have a grand celebration of his efforts at the Salt Lick barbeque joint just south of Austin.

Finally, our prayer is that we can use this natural tool to serve the Lord in His vineyard for we ultimately recognize that while we till the soil, the Lord alone provides for germination and growth.

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Jesus Christ is the One God of Heaven and Earth

Biblical passages establishing Jesus Christ as the One God of Heaven and Earth.

That is a basic piece of New Church theology.  It is key because the Lord’s power and ability to work miracles in our spiritual life depends on it.  In short God, through His Humanity is able to engage the worst fiery blasts that hell can throw our direction and overthrow them.   So, in short, we need to recognize the Lord God Jesus Christ as the One God in our lives so that we can benefit from His power, protection, eternal love and peace.

Fundamentalist Christians often challenge this truth by saying that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three independent persons who are together one god.  They profess a belief that the angry Father was set to destroy the Human Race but the Son volunteered to go to earth to Sacrifice Himself in order to appease His anger.  This teaching was developed and articulated at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.  Sadly, this approach does not rightly interpret the Bible, leading to all kinds of irreconcilable thoughts about God.

The following is a short list of passages cited in True Christian Religion clearly establishing the truth that Jehovah (the father) Himself was born on earth.  Truly “I and my Father are One” (John 10:30).  One Simply can not construe these passages to mean that Jehovah was separate from Jesus Christ when He was born on earth. The Oneness of God is the best context from which to understand the Bible.  My hope is that you can use these passages in your dialogues about who the God of the Bible is.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (literally meaning ‘God with us’).  (Isaiah 7:14,  Matt. 1:22.23)

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

And it will be said in that day: “ Behold, this is our God; 
We have waited for Him, and He will save us. 
This is Jehovah; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” (Isaiah 25:9)

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of Jehovah; Make straight in the desert, A highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; The glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of Jehovah has spoken.” (Isaiah 3-5)

“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” says Jehovah. “Many nations shall be joined to Jehovah in that day, and they shall become My people. (Zechariah 2:10,11)

I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: JEHOVAH OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Jeremiah 23: 5,6)

Who has told it from that time? Have not I, Jehovah? 
And there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me. “ Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! 
For I am God, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:21,22)

I, even I, am Jehovah, And besides Me there is no savior. (Isaiah 43:11)

I would love to see passages that you might also use in this discussion

The Lord Wants You Back!

The Lord is all about redemption! – So much so that He is called the “Redeemer.”   It is not about coupons. Rather redemption is about His wanting to be a part of your life.  And when He becomes a part of your life the most incredible things happen.

We are not talking about doing what is ‘easy’ or ‘safe.’   This is more along the lines of Peter who was willing to get out of the boat to walk on stormy seas even though he had no life preserver and couldn’t swim.   He did it, and spiritually speaking we can too.

The attached PDF contains a collection of passages I have been reflecting on that link the works of Redemption to the purposes of a Church.  I would love to hear your comments and reflections.  Here is the file: Establishment of a Church

-Dave

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Link for Live Radio Program Saturday Evening

You can listen to Brother Miller’s live radio broadcast with the church of truth Saturday evenings beginning at 6:30 from Louisville, KY. Follow this link to the myspace site and click on the radio streaming link Link to stream Brother Miller\’s radio program

NOTE to Mac users:  you need to roll around with your pointer until you get the volume on the wllv site to work.  It must be some compatibility issue between the site and safari.