Chris Appleby Ministries

Chris Appleby Ministries


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Welcome to Chris Appleby Ministries Website

This Website is provided to present sermons and other writing from Rev Chris Appleby.

Chris offers coaching in leadership and mentoring in preaching as well as the sermons on this site, offered as encouragement to others to grow in their life and ministry. He also manages a number of Church and Christian organisation websites.

Chris is an Anglican minister in Melbourne Australia. He grew up in Sydney and was part of an evangelical Anglican Church where he met and later married Dianne (Di) in 1972. He and Di had 3 children in the 70s. Their son Paul died during treatment for leukemia in 2012. They have 5 grandchildren.

He worked for 20 years as an electronics engineer in the Dept of Civil Aviation (Transport, Aviation) designing air traffic control systems.

He studied theology at Ridley Theological College, Melbourne from 1990 to 1992 and was ordained in 1993.

He was vicar of St Theodore's Wattle Park/St Thomas' Burwood from 1996 until he retired in mid 2015.

He is an Examining Chaplain with the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, is Treasurer and a member of the National Executive Committee of EFAC Australia and a board member of Anglican Relief and Development Fund Australia (ARDFA). He is also a committee member of Christians for Biblical Equality, Melbourne Chapter.

Most of the sermons on this site, apart from those since May 2015, were presented at St Thomas' Burwood.

God’s Providence     audio

Gen 45

God has a wonderful plan for your life. That’s how a popular evangelistic tract of the 70s and 80s began. The implication was that if you decided to become a Christian your life from then on would be wonderful. But was that true?

Well, you could get that idea if you chose the right set of Scripture verses. Let me give you some examples:

“All things work together for good for those who love God.” (Rom 8:28)

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1).

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”" (Psalm 34:8).

5Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. 6In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Certainly there’s a recurrent them in the Old Testament that those who obey the Lord will be blessed, will live a long and happy life.

 But is that the experience of every Christian? Is it even the experience of most Christians?

What goes through your mind when bad things happen to you or to someone you love?

Do you ask yourself “Where is God in this?” “Has God forgotten me?” “Was it all a lie?”

Or do you perhaps start to wonder whether God’s punishing you, or ignoring you, because you’ve disobeyed him in some major way? Do you suddenly discover a guilty conscience?

What we sometimes miss when we think about these questions is that the Old Testament contains not only promises of blessing. It also has its fair share of laments: e.g. Psalm 13:1-2:  “1How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”

Those are the sorts of thoughts that may have gone through Joseph’s mind as he experienced the ups and down of his life. Think back to what you read over the past couple of weeks. Life seemed so great as he was growing up. Clearly he was blessed by God. He was Jacob’s favourite son, one of only two sons born to Rachel, Jacob’s great love. Jacob showed this favouritism by giving him the famous long robe with sleeves, possibly of many colours but there’s no real evidence of the colour bit – though it does make for a better stage production. 

It seems that God had given him the ability even as a teenager to interpret dreams and the dreams God sent him pointed to great things for Joseph.

But then jealousy on the part of his older brothers intervenes. Finding him alone in the wilderness they take the opportunity to sell him off as a slave.

As a slave things could have been worse. He was bought by Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and did well. That is, until Potiphar’s wife took a liking to him and he made the mistake of acting with integrity and refused her approaches. That got him falsely accused and thrown into prison.

So by this stage he’d been betrayed by his brothers, sent as a slave to Egypt and now, despite acting righteously was in prison, without hope of getting out.

How would you feel? Like God had abandoned you? Like God was punishing you when you’d done nothing wrong? Like the promise you’d seen in all of those dreams you’d had was empty, a myth?

Well, I guess you know the rest of the story, don’t you? Joseph eventually got out of prison, when the cupbearer finally remembered how Joseph had revealed the meaning of his dream. He was able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream and as a result was made Chief Minister of all of Egypt.

The famine predicted by Pharaoh’s dream finally arrived. By the second year the grain stores were empty and Joseph’s family needed food. So what happens? Jacob sends his 10 oldest sons to Egypt to buy grain. And now the story starts to come together. They arrive and are met by Joseph but of course they don’t recognise him. He’s gives them a hard time and sends them away without Simeon, who’s kept as a hostage and with the warning that unless they bring back their youngest brother to prove  that they’re honest men, they’ll get no more grain from Egypt.

If you look at ch 42 v21 you’ll see how their guilty consciences surface as Joseph insists that they bring Benjamin back with them. They see this as being the result of the terrible thing they’d done to their brother all those years ago?

And that’s where we come to today’s set of events. Now they’re back. But first if you have your Bibles open look back to ch 43. I want you to notice a couple of surprising things.

When they arrive with Benjamin among them you he gives them the great honour of inviting them to his house to eat. This isn’t the palace where he met them last time. This is his own home. Does that surprise you after all he’s been through? I wonder would you have treated them like that?

Why does he act like that? Well you might also notice from the account in these few chapters how much love Joseph still has for his brothers.

But he hasn’t forgotten what they’ve done. He sets them two more tests. First he shows the same sort of favouritism to Benjamin that Jacob had showed to him, giving him five times as much as the others? I don’t think this is just that Benjamin is his only full brother. I think he’s testing his brothers to see if they’re still jealous of Jacob’s favourite sons.

Then he again sends them away with their money in the top of their sacks but this time with his own silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. This is the big test. When they’re brought back he offers them freedom in exchange for leaving Benjamin as his slave. Will they do to Benjamin what they’d done to Joseph all those years ago?

Well the change in them is remarkable isn’t it? Judah offers his own life in exchange for that of Benjamin. He loves his father too much to have him lose another of Rachel’s sons.

Which brings us to today’s reading.

When Joseph sees how Judah has changed it’s all too much for him. He sends everyone out except his brothers. He tells them through his tears who he is. And again their guilty consciences come to the fore. They’re dismayed at his presence. You can imagine what they’re thinking at this point, can’t you? Here’s the second most powerful man in Egypt and we sold him into slavery! It wouldn’t surprise me either if they also remembered those dreams about them all bowing down to him.

But Joseph isn’t motivated by vengeance. He’s motivated by love. Love for them and love for their father. What’s the first thing he asks them? “Is my father still alive?” In other words, is he well? How often in all those years must he have wondered how his father was faring? He would have remembered how much he was loved by Jacob and clearly the love was mutual. It may be that the worst part of being a slave was being so far from home without any news of his family.

But his love and concern is equally for his brothers. He invites them to come closer. It’s almost as if he wants to feel his family around him again. Do you know that feeling, when you’ve been away from home for a long time and you finally get back and you just want to sit down with your whole family for a meal together? I think that’s how Joseph is feeling at this moment as he gathers his brothers around him.

And as he speaks, it’s with words of comfort. There’s almost a feeling of Aussie cool about the way he says it: you know, “Don’t worry about it!” He says “do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.”

Here’s a great example of someone dealing with loss. Yes he’d been sold into slavery; terrible things had happened to him; he was the victim of great injustice on several occasions; but he’d come to terms with his situation. Perhaps he’d been through the five stages of grief but had ended not just with acceptance, but in his case, understanding. He could look back and see the hand of God in it.

I think this can be the most difficult thing for us as Christians when things go wrong. How can we come to a point of understanding what’s going on? How can we continue to trust God when we can only see disaster; when we can only feel hurt; when we can’t see any rhyme or reason in what’s happened?

In Joseph’s case he’d discovered God’s goodness to his family and to the whole world as well. These terrible events had led to salvation for Jacob and his family; in other words for Jacob and the twelve tribes of Israel. Look at v. 7: “7God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth.” This idea of a remnant is one that pops up regularly through the biblical account of God’s people. Joseph’s remnant would grow to become a great nation under David and Solomon, but that nation would then be decimated by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. A small remnant would return to Jerusalem under Nehemiah and Ezra but then the Greeks and Romans would come in and defeat them once again.

The message of the New Testament is that Jesus comes as representative of the final remnant of faithful Israel. And the remnant then becomes the newly founded church.

But that leads me to wonder whether we Christians will always be few, always a minority, a remnant. Even when Jesus was here, being a disciple was not for the faint-hearted. John tells us in John 6, when Jesus had finished talking about eating of the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking his blood, that many turned back and no longer followed him.

Should we perhaps expect life to be difficult as Christians? Certainly in Australia at the moment we’re a minority, with little voice in the public arena. But should that discourage us? Are we such a weak minority that there’s no hope for the future?

Listen again to what Joseph said to his brothers: “7God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.” Joseph could see that though there were only a small number in his family, 12 brothers plus wives and no doubt children, they’d become many survivors in the end. In fact by the time of the Exodus there were around 600,000 of them.

So we mustn’t be discouraged. We may never get to the point that Joseph got to where we can see the reasons behind what God has done in our lives but we can trust him to be in control, bringing about his good purposes in all that he does.

Let me finish by considering one of those “blessings” verses I mentioned at the start. “All things work together for good for those who love God.” (Rom 8:28)

I fear we have such a short term view of the world, such a material perspective, that it’s too easy to misunderstand what God’s telling us there. I grew up thinking this meant that everything in my life would go smoothly since I’m a person who loves God. And I have to say in the most part that’s been the case; but not entirely. I’ve experienced great loss and sadness over the past few years. So I’ve had to think through what that verse is really saying. So let me read for you the next couple of verses in Romans 8: “29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30) You see the “good” that all things are leading to is me being glorified in heaven, when I’m raised with Jesus. I have no doubt that at that point I’ll be able to look back like Joseph and see how God has acted to preserve not just a remnant but a great host of people, not by sending a Joseph to Egypt but by sending his own son Jesus to Bethlehem, to Jerusalem to bring salvation to all who call on his name.

What we see in this story of Joseph and his brothers is the overruling providence of God, who’s able to work through all the terrible events of our broken world to bring about salvation for his people. We won’t always know why God does what he does. In fact we might rarely know why he does what he does and if you think you do know be careful because you could even then have it wrong. But what we do know is that God’s love is sure, his faithfulness is certain and he will fulfil his promise to take us to be with him when the time comes, to provide us with a place where we’ll enjoy his glory forever.

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Phone: 0422187127