Sunday 13th September 2020
Church people are a curious breed. They have the privilege of being brought up in the things of the Lord. They have the privilege of receiving the grace and promises of God, of knowing the Word of God, belonging to the people of God, of being encouraged weekly through the church services and the ministries of the church. Let’s face it – they have a rich inheritance! This inheritance which we enjoy in part today while living on earth, will come into its fullness when Jesus Returns at the end of Time, when He will make everything new.
The question is, “What are we doing with this inheritance?”. Do we love the community of the church, being active in the ministries of the church, to the extent that we see it as ‘our’ church? In the movie series “God is not Dead”, the pastor of the church saw it as ‘my church’ and the dream he had for it. But God took the church away through a fire and community opposition to teach him that it is the Lord’s church. The Gospel is about God’s love for a sinful mankind through the sending of His Son Jesus to be our Lord and Saviour. Yet how often do we slide into thinking of the church as ‘our’ church – what we want it to do for us; rather than delighting in our Gospel inheritance from the Father and what He wants to do with it. Just observe the way we talk and make decisions.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son is about two lost sons; a sinner who left for a foreign land, repented, and returned, AND, the other lost son who stayed, also considering his father as good as dead as he can’t wait for father to die so that he can take over the farm and run it his way. The younger represented the sinners and tax-collectors while the older son represented the Scribes and Pharisees. Both lost, holding the Father in contempt, eager to live life in their own way. Both receiving the amazing love of the Father; yet with quite different responses. As a member of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, how do you view your Gospel inheritance? Pastor Alan
Sunday 6th September 2020
One of the greatest privileges in life, besides being a husband, is being a father. The birth of our first child was a life-changing event! A bit of a shock too as it dawned on me that this little bundle of life was totally dependent on us for life itself. The other significant thought was that as a father, I had a great influence on how this child would turn out like when she grew up! And so, discipline and values became focused on ‘what kind of adult did I desire my child to be?’ As a Christian I had the Word of God as my standard, but I (and my wife) had to fill in the details. It was my desire as a father that our children would grow up to be independent, confident Christians – able to make good life choices and be a credit to their God, family and country. By God’s grace I am proud of each one of the children He has gifted to me and the privilege I had to be part of their upbringing.
The most significant influence in my life as father is my Heavenly Father. Psalm 103:13-14 says, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” This love and compassion of God the Father is so wonderfully illustrated in the Parable of the Lost Son in Luke 15. What love in giving his child over to his own foolishness because he had to learn the lessons of life for himself. What hope as he waited at the front gate every day anticipating that his son would come to his senses and come home. What compassion when he ran out to meet his son and embraced him in his filth and all. What mercy and forgiveness when he restored his lost son to his place as son in the household with a celebration, even though the son had denied his sonship. Knowing that God the Father has loved me like this, I am empowered to be a loving, hopeful, compassionate and forgiving father. Aware of my own inadequacies, weaknesses and mistakes, I pray that my children may know even just a smidgeon of God the Father’s love in my love for them; that would bring me tremendous joy. What about you? Pastor Alan
Sunday 30th August 2020
Deafness is so isolating. When we get older and harder of hearing, our world can become quite small; Bible study and church become such an effort! It is not so much that we can’t hear the voice, but more that you cannot understand the words that are being spoken. And when you are hard of hearing, people seem to ignore you – it is too much effort for them to try to communicate with you. Or they yell at you as if you are simple minded. Your world can be a very small place indeed.
Add to that in the New Testament times the Pharisees considered disabled people to be unclean and under the judgement of God because of someone’s sin (see John 9:2).
In Mark 7, friends or family bring a man who is deaf and mute to Jesus for healing. They implore Jesus to lay hands on him. But Jesus goes much further He compassionately deals with him in private giving him His full attention and communicating on his level. He speaks and the man is healed! His ears are opened and his tongue loosed. Jesus tells them not to say anything about his healing, but he is too pumped up to keep his mouth shut – imagine being able to speak for the first time! You would be experimenting with all the different sounds, and saying words. The family and friends would be ecstatic! Laughing and speaking nineteen to a dozen!
And then a very pertinent response is made: ‘He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’ Mark draws us back to Isaiah 35 where the coming of the Messiah would bring salvation to Israel and the world, evidenced by the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, the lame leaping and the mute singing for joy.
Where are you at today? Do you come to church with a sense of joy and anticipation? Are you eager to hear the Word of the Lord through the songs, Bible Readings and sermons? Is your heart full of thankfulness, bursting to be expressed in song? Can you ‘not shut up’ about the amazing grace of salvation in your life? Can you say, ‘He has done all things well?’ and find your joy in the Lord even in these trying and strange times of Covid-19? These people were so excited about physical healing that they couldn’t help but rave about it! How much more for us with the spiritual healing of salvation? Pastor Alan
Sunday 23rd August 2020
Typically as Christians we are ‘middle class’. With a Biblical work ethic and the principle of stewardship we normally become fairly well off. And with being middle class comes a middle class mindset. Typically if we see a poor person then they must be lazy; if they are unemployed, they should try harder to get a job! Or if only they didn’t waste their money on drink and the pokies, they would be better off!
The Scribes and Pharisees battled with a Jewish mindset. They were obsessed with ritual cleanness and uncleanness. In fact, they thought, your way into heaven depended on your being ritually clean. Jesus confronted the Jewish leaders and taught the matter of being right with God is not in what you do (ritual cleanness) but on the condition of your heart! To make His point clear to the Disciples Jesus went into a Gentile (unclean) country and met with a woman; a Canaanite, and a Roman – the lowest of low; the ultimate outcast and religious Jewish reject – and gives her the gift of Salvation; being right with the Lord God.
How could He do that? On the basis of faith in Him as the Lord Jesus Christ. Psalm 87 prophecies that all nations shall be brought into Zion – God’s Holy city. And the faith of the Syro-Phoenician woman was a foretaste of that. What mindset are you using to view others? The Bible teaches that we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God, and that we are made right with God through faith in Jesus Christ. There is hope for everyone and anyone through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Pastor Alan
Sunday 26th July 2020
‘Cancel culture’ – the removal “of support for public figures in response to their objectionable behaviour or opinions” – has become a strong force in society today, especially through the internet. The way it seems to be used is not so much as holding people accountable for their words or actions, but more as forcing people to comply to the values of that group. We all should be ready to give an account for our words and actions; that is the intent of the law! Accountability means to be given the right of reply and defence. It is done by dealing with one another with dignity and honour, allowing for discussion and, if appropriate, apology and change. That does not appear to be the practice of ‘cancel culture’ in our society. Rather it seems to be used as a tool of domination (you adhere to our values [bend the knee] or we will make your life null and void) under the guise of having a voice.
‘Cancel culture’ is nothing new! The Religious leaders were using it back in the times of Jesus. The Scribes and Pharisees hated Jesus and were looking for a way to discredit Him and make His teaching null and void. Notice in Mark 7 that they asked Jesus why He and His disciples were not walking in the tradition of the elders (not adhering to their values!)! The place of the Law in the Old Testament was a guide on how to live holy lives as an expression of love for the Lord God. But the Religious Leaders had made up their own traditions (little laws) and were holding people to that instead of the Law of God (see Mark 7:13)! But Jesus goes further! Not only are you using the wrong laws for holiness, but you are bringing the wrong solution for holiness! Disobedience to the law is a symptom of a deeper problem: a sinful heart. You can impose all the washing rituals you like, but you are not addressing the real issue concerning holiness – that is the heart of man. You can’t get right with God by what you do, because what you do is directed by your heart, which is corrupted by sin. What is the answer?
God gave the answer in Ezekiel 36, “Í will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules”. The solution is the coming of the Kingdom in Repentance for the forgiveness of sins by believing in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. It is demonstrated by a renewed heart that desires to please God, having the Holy Spirit living in it. The weakness of ‘cancel culture’ is that it seeks to dominate by conformity rather than a renewing and drawing together by conviction. (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 19th July 2020
Laws are given for our good. They provide justice, peace and equity. For example, if we were all to follow the health guidelines for Covid-19, then coronavirus would soon be brought under control. But people are going their own way, making their own ‘laws’, consequently putting others in danger of life, and bringing heartache to many as Covid-19 enters into a second wave. This minority group consider themselves above the ‘Law’.
In Mark Chapter 7, we see the Scribes and Pharisees doing the same thing. The Scribes were men who studied the Old Testament, and the Pharisees were a group of men who arose during the time between the Old and New Testament and who wanted the people to live faithfully by the Law in the face of Roman and Pagan oppression. And so they fenced the Laws of God with extra little laws (traditions) to help the people remain faithful and pure. But in concentrating so hard on the extra laws (traditions) they forgot the intent of the Law – to lead us into the worship of God. Rather, they judged whether people were religious or not by how they obeyed the laws (traditions) of the elders.
We see this as they confront Jesus – “Why do your disciples not walk by the traditions of the elders and eat with defiled (ceremonially) unwashed hands?” The Scribes and Pharisees confront Jesus – the Son of God – about not obeying “their” laws; Jesus, Who has come to fulfil the Law of God and obey the Father’s will; Jesus, Who is bringing in the Kingdom of God through Repentance for the forgiveness of sins by being the curse of the Law for us in His death on the Cross.
Jesus ‘calls them out’ and condemns them for their hypocrisy! The Law of God points us to the worship of God. But the laws (traditions) of the Elders point us to … the demands of the elders; it was a means to hold power over the people, who lived in fear of being cast out if they did not follow the laws (traditions) of the elders.
As Christians and Churches today, by God’s grace, we equally need to work hard on truly following the Law of God that brings us into the worship of God, avoiding setting up laws and expectations that raise us up; we should not be requiring people to conform to our expectations rather than the Lord’s Law. Which “law” are you following? (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 12th July 2020
In the bushfires, floods and now Covid-19 we saw as a society many acts of compassion; people caring for others and helping them in their need. It was summed up by the slogan, ‘we are in it together’. But, with the rising of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, protests, and lock down fatigue, that sense of compassion and caring for one another as a society has all but disappeared. It is fair to say we are not ‘in it together’ now.
It now seems that people and groups are pushing their own agendas. We are now into the blame game. It is now about our rights, about our power, and our freedoms. Imagine what unity, justice and meeting needs could have been achieved if we had continued with the attitude of compassion: ‘We are in it together?’
In fact, this is indeed possible because Jesus has brought in the Kingdom of God! We see in Mark 6:53-56 that Jesus comes with ministry of Compassion – even to the extent that He gave up His own life to meet our needs in sin. The ministry of Jesus, summarised in this passage, is one of compassion – meeting our needs through the forgiveness of sins. In Chapter 7, we go on to see that Scribes and Pharisees were power-mongers, serving their own needs on the backs of the people.
And that is what we are observing in our society now – people breaking Covid-19 restrictions without considering other people. They cancel culture, breaking down statues and breaking down the past to rebuild their own history narrative; races and genders use violence, death and abuse to dominate others; identity groups impose their identity on others. They abuse them if they dare to disagree. The common denominator of all these groups is that it is self-serving at the expense of others. That is not to say that there are not equality and justice issues to be addressed – there definitely are! But the ends never justify the means – otherwise we are no better than those we accuse of treating us badly; we merely turn the wheel in another circle of abuse.
The answer? Compassion; we are in it together! The compassion of Jesus Who gave up His life to save our lives and bring us into the Kingdom of Heaven. As Christians, do we practise this compassion? How much do we care about the lost, the poor, the needy, the abused and downtrodden? Or have we unwittingly fallen into merely being children of our western culture? (That it is all about me!?) Look to Jesus and let us grow in the ministry of compassion by letting people experience the kingdom of God that is ours in Jesus. (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 5th July 2020
The Disciples and crowds wanted Jesus and His power to lead them in a revolution against Rome. The Disciples had been on a preaching tour, enabled with the power of Jesus to cast out demons and heal the sick. Jesus had just fed some 20,000 people with two fish and five little crackers. This was power! The problem with a revolution is that it only lasts until the next revolution or the next election. It is only temporary – a constant battle of powers with a fear for an uncertain future.
The kingdom of God, however, has been promised from creation, and will continue for eternity. When Jesus walks to the Disciples on the water in the storm, He reveals Himself as the great “I AM”; Yahweh the God of the Promise. His Kingdom is for eternity, bringing peace and love that drive out all fear. Jesus shows that as Lord He not only has the power to save but also the commitment of the promises of God to save. Jesus calls us to faith in Him as Lord. He calls us from the fear of life to the faith of eternal life in Him, from the fear of the storms of life as we worry about the “what-ifs” to the certainty of faith in Jesus “it is!”
The Disciples, wrapped up in revolution, did not understand the work of Jesus as Saviour until Pentecost when Peter preached that mighty Pentecost Sermon – this Jesus of Nazareth Whom you killed is the Lord’s Saviour of the world. Repent, Believe and be Saved.
Are you afraid? Whom do you see Jesus as? He is my Lord and Saviour and I live in the certainty of His Love and Salvation, even in times of trouble and death. What about you? (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 28th June 2020
It is fascinating to watch the sinful heart at work! When an issue arises, rather than taking responsibility, there is a series of steps one takes to try to “get out of it”! Imagine two high school boys. They are on a school camp and one of the rules is no alcohol – consequence: immediate expulsion. These two boys are found to be drunk at camp and are called to give an account for their actions. Firstly, they try to shift the blame; we didn’t bring the drink, we were roped into it! (read: it is not our fault!). Secondly, there is trying to shift the rule; but everybody is doing it! If everyone is doing it the rule must be irrelevant; we need to change the rule! Thirdly, there is an attack on the rule-giver; you don’t have to enforce this rule, we deserve a second chance. You are being heartless to expel us, ‘boys will be boys after all!’
When a wrong is done, the driving force of a sinful heart is ‘How can I get out of it?’ We see it all around us: drunkenness is a disease; criminal activity is caused by an abused childhood; abortion is a solution to a mother’s mental health problem.
In the Gospel, there is another way; it is the way of accepting responsibility and confessing our wrongdoing. It focuses on the other person: How I can set them free from the hurt I have caused them? Not seeking how to get out of it, but how do I put this right? But that requires a new heart, a new way of thinking which comes by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Word when we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. God’s Name and Honour then becomes the motivating force in our lives. Are you a Blame-shifter, or, a Responsibility-taker? What does your life say about your heart? (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 21st June 2020
One of the great things we have seen lately through the bushfires, floods and Covid-19 pandemic was the good things people have done to help one another. People have gone out of their way to help! We have seen people standing clapping in appreciation for the frontline health workers in the Covid-19 Pandemic. Even recently with the teenage boy with autism, William Callaghan, who was lost in the bush on Mount Disappointment, there were hundreds of volunteers who came out to help find him! But what if I told you that all these ‘good works’ were not considered to be good in the eyes of the Lord God? They were good in that they were helping others, definitely, but God does not consider them as good before Him because they were not done for His glory. The Bible teaches that for a good work to be good to God it must be done 1) out of faith in the Lord Jesus as your Lord and Saviour; 2) conforming to God’s Law; and 3) to the Glory of God.
How does this work? Well, God created the heavens and earth for His glory. He created mankind to be the manager of His creation. All we have and do are to bring glory to God as Creator. But, as sinful mankind, we seek the glory for ourselves – in fact, in evolution we have put God right out of the picture altogether! It is like a factory manager taking over a factory and keeping the profits for himself. No matter how successful the business may be, the product will always be the result of fraud and theft.
Yes, we do feel good about people helping other people; it is good to see our country being “all in it together” as we have made such a good effort in the Covid-19 lockdown. But there is a bigger picture: this is God’s creation and He deserves and demands all the glory. We can make things right with Him by being reconciled with the Lord through Repenting and Believing in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. With renewed hearts of faith we can do good works that please the Lord, because our hearts are now set on His glory. (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 14th June 2020
The death of George Floyd in the middle of the suffering, tensions and frustration of the Covid-19 pandemic has exploded into the “Black Lives Matter” protest. Many thousands of people have joined the cause by taking to the streets in protest, feeling so passionately that this cause is greater than the Covid-19 risk of a second wave infection.
This passion describes very well the strong feelings of the Jews in the New Testament times. The Twelve Disciples, experiencing the power of Jesus in their first Preaching Tour were very excited about using that power to start a revolution: “Jewish Lives Matter! Free Israel from Roman oppression and slavery!” After all this was their Land promised to their Father Abraham! But Jesus refocuses the Disciples away from pursuing a political cause, to bring in the Kingdom of God. He shows that the Kingdom comes with compassion, meeting people where they are at, in their hurt and need – their greatest need being reconciled to the Lord through the forgiveness of sin and being set free from the slavey of sin. As Ezekiel 34 shows us, the Jewish Leaders had been pursuing their own cause of religious advantage off the backs of the people. Jesus also shows the Twelve Disciples that the power of the Kingdom comes from Him and is to be used for His kingdom, and not to pursue their own causes (as each of us is wont to do).
Black lives do matter! They matter to Jesus Who hears and feels their pain; so much so that He came to die on the Cross to set them free from the oppression and slavery of sin, ultimately not because they are black but because as people they have been made in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and equality as humans. But remember this; it is only the Gospel that can truly set us free from oppression and discrimination. It is the Gospel that is the ultimate solution and answer to the slavery and oppression of sin which manifests itself in all these different forms of slavery and oppression; whether it is race, gender, colour, status, age, etc. It is the Gospel that gives us the focus, direction, and motivation to deal with oppression and slavery. Jesus brought the Kingdom of God to set us free to live in Him and for Him, as our Lord and Saviour – Jesus the perfect man. (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 7th June 2020
Fear is a hard taskmaster. Fear can paralyse us from movement, stifle clear thinking and result in desperate actions. Peer pressure is one form of fear; we conform to the expectations of the group for fear of not being accepted. Fear of consequences is another type of fear. When King Herod heard about the blitz of preaching and miracles in the Name of Jesus, he broke out in fear! This, he concluded, was the prophet John the Baptist whom he beheaded coming back to haunt him! If John has risen from the dead with these new powers, he may well drum up a populist movement against him!
And then the backstory comes out about how Herod had rejected the message of John the Baptist by having him beheaded (under the manipulation of his wife Herodias). Now was an opportunity for Herod to repent as John the Baptist had called him to do, but instead he hardened his heart. We see a further hardening of heart when Pilate calls in Herod to make a ruling on Jesus (because Jesus was from Galilee – in Herod’s district). Herod was only interested in seeing Jesus do a miracle – Jesus in turn treats Herod like the little nobody that he is, and does not answer his questions. In response Herod and his soldiers mocked and ridiculed Jesus and sent him back to Pilate.
We note the progression in the hardening of the heart in the rejection of the Gospel call. This event is sandwiched between the Twelve on their first preaching tour and their report back of the tour to Jesus. Not only peoples but also ‘kings’ will reject the Gospel call. (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 31st May 2020
Birthdays were a special time in our family. On birthdays we remembered, gave thanks and celebrated God’s goodness in our lives. It was part of our identity and belonging in the family.
Pentecost is the birthday of the New Testament Church! It is the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon believers in Jesus Christ, the Lord’s Messiah.
Peter preached the first Gospel sermon; this Jesus Whom you crucified is the Promised Messiah! The people were overwhelmed by what they had done – they had crucified the One upon Whom all their hopes were pinned. They had trodden underfoot the gift of the Almighty Lord. Cut to the heart by their actions, they cried out in dismay, ‘Brothers what shall we do?!’ Peter replies, “Repent and be baptised every one of you in the Name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” And with that the New Testament church was born! The very people who crucified the Christ, hearing the sermon of Peter were now crying out to Peter, “Brothers what should we do?” What brought about this about turn?
It is the Holy Spirit! As sinners we do not naturally like to hear about our sin and guilt before a Holy God; it is the Holy Spirit Who convicts hearts to repentance.
Being baptised was a public declaration of being a follower of Jesus – a leaving behind of Judaism to be a follower of Jesus. When we repent and believe in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit Who comes and lives in our heart. He unites us to Christ and to one another as the Church – the Body of Christ.
It is good to remember where we come from and who we are as the Church of Christ, to appreciate anew the Faithfulness and Loving kindness of the Lord. The Church of Christ is rooted in history right back to the Garden of Eden, Abraham, the Old Testament Israelite people through Moses, and the New Testament Church through Christ. What a spiritual heritage – worth celebrating, huh? Pastor Alan
Sunday 24th May 2020
If they will not listen to you, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them; that is what Jesus instructs His Disciples to do as He sends them off on their first preaching tour! To shake the dust off their feet was a Jewish symbolic gesture of separation; ‘I want nothing to do with you’. Imagine a wife who is arguing with her husband and is leaving the marriage. She picks up their wedding photo and rips it in half! She is symbolically saying this relationship is finished! I want nothing further to do with you!
What harsh instruction Jesus gives to His Disciples! It is a testimony of Judgement. The Jewish people, who had the Law of Moses, the prophets and promise to Abraham which has come in its fulfilment in Jesus the Messiah, had rejected the Lord’s Messiah. They were spiritually unclean and worse than the non-Jews (Pagans) who did not have this heritage. Jesus says it would be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah (known for their homosexual lifestyles) than for any Jewish town that rejects Jesus as the Messiah.
The Gospel has two sides: Salvation for those who repent and believe; judgement for those who reject Jesus as Lord and Saviour. God as Creator demands to be loved above everything else. Repentance restores us into a friendship with God. Rejection of the Gospel confirms us in God’s Anger and Judgement.
The Rejection of Jesus as the Messiah led to His Crucifixion. But we see the compassion of God at Pentecost, where the same Jews who screamed for and brought about His Crucifixion, were preached to again and called to repent; and they did, and about 3,000 believers were added to their number that day! While there is life there is always the opportunity to repent. Pastor Alan
Sunday 17th May 2020
One of the catchcries of the climate change advocates is “It is good science!” and therefore it should be obvious to everybody. How can you not believe the science? But good science or not, people will believe what they want to believe.
Jesus went to Nazareth and taught in the Synagogue. His words were true and He would have shown how God’s promises have been fulfilled in the Lord’s Messiah – Jesus. It was “good science”; the evidence was all there! But the blindness of unbelief led the people to savagely reject Jesus. That the Religious leaders opposed Jesus, with their whole livelihood being at stake, was one thing, but that the people in nondescript Nazareth should react like that was quite amazing. They thought they knew Jesus better than He did. After all He was their home-grown boy; even His family thought He was out of His mind. They considered Jesus to be a commoner who tried to play ball with the important Religious leaders – he was totally out of His place in society. But to savage Him so personally, that was something else.
We see the same blindness of unbelief all around us today – on the one hand, that I am an alright person, so God will let me into heaven, through to vicious attacks on character like happened to Israel Folau.
1 Corinthians 1:18-25 teaches us that the Gospel is but foolishness to the unbeliever, so we are to expect rejection and persecution.
In today’s passage in Mark 6, Jesus sends out the Disciples on a preaching tour, and they have experienced first-hand with Jesus how savage that rejection can be. If they are not received by a village, they were to shake the dust off their feet and move on to the next place.
It also reminds us that this blindness of unbelief can only be broken by prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit. Do not be discouraged by an antagonistic and even hostile treatment of Christianity. But rejoice that the Lord should consider us worthy to suffer for His Name. (Pastor Alan)
Mother’s Day Sunday 10th May 2020
Today is Mother’s Day, a day on which many of us pause, reflect and celebrate God’s gift of motherhood. For some of us it is a day of gladness and thankfulness, to know the love, acceptance, example and guidance of Mum. For others it brings regret and sadness, for the mothers we didn’t have or the children that didn’t grow up.
This morning we will consider two women, Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth. Naomi was overwhelmed by circumstances; she was bitter of heart because she felt that God had dealt badly with her. She went away full and came back empty. She had lost her husband, two sons and had no grandchildren. She had left a woman of means and social standing. Now she was coming back to Bethlehem, her home town, destitute, and so she was bitter, moaning and groaning, and complaining how bad life was for her.
On the other hand there is Ruth, a Moabitess, accursed of God, a childless widow, with a whingeing mother-in-law, and being told to go home! Ruth, however, pledges her allegiance to Naomi – she is her mother-in-law, her family, after all. Ruth has learned of the Lord God of Israel from Naomi over the years and has a personal faith in Him as her God, a faith she declares when Naomi urges her to turn back to Moab. The Lord is gracious, as Boaz marries Ruth and they have children from which their descendent, King David is born.
Now, the choice is this: Will you be like Naomi, a bitter self-centred, disobedient woman who reaped what she had sown and complains about it all (a whingeing misery-guts), or, will you be like Ruth, a woman of faith who saw things from God’s perspective of grace and love, and therefore she could be joyful and thankful while living in the face of their dire circumstances?
The Lord is gracious, loving and faithful, which we see in His sending of Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. How will you respond to His love and faithfulness? (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 3rd May 2020
Jairus, a leader in the Jewish Church, was desperate. His only daughter, who is 12 years old, is dying. His heart is breaking. He so desires to fix it, as fathers are inclined to do. So great is his desire that he is willing to give up everything so that she might be healed. And so Jairus goes to Jesus and lays his livelihood and reputation on the line; he falls at the feet of Jesus and publicly begs Jesus to come and lay His hand on his little daughter so that she would be healed. Did Jairus believe that Jesus could heal his little daughter? Yes he did, but was it Jesus as Miracle worker or Jesus as Lord?
Jesus agrees to go with Jairus to his house but is diverted by a sick woman who touched his cloak. She too just wanted to touch Jesus so she could be healed. She, however, believed in Jesus as Lord, as Jesus says to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you…” By this time Jairus’ daughter has died. The servants urge Jairus not to waste the Teacher’s time – it is too late now. But note what Jesus says, “Don’t be Afraid; just Believe!” Just believe what?
Just believe that Jesus is Lord and has the power as Lord to raise the dead. Jesus goes to the house of Jairus, and tells the funeral professionals to stop their noise because the little girl is not dead, only sleeping. He goes inside and calls the little girl to get up. In this, Jesus brings Jairus to faith in Him as Lord.
The Covid-19 virus has brought anxiety and even fear into many homes. But remember and take comfort from this: Jesus is Lord over Sickness and Death. We still need to be wise, and follow the restriction guidelines, but we do not live in anxiety and fear – Jesus is Lord and so we are secure in His care, both in this life and the life to come.
“Don’t be Afraid; just Believe!” (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 26th April 2020
We have been exploring the question, “If God is a God of love, how can He let there be so much suffering in the world?” – particularly as we now hear the World Food Programme warns of a potential food shortage which may leave many in Africa on the point of starvation as restrictions due to the Covid-19 virus closes borders, or slows down transport with testing and disinfection regimes. Such suffering!
Firstly, we need to lay hold of the fundamental fact that there is a battle going between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan that began in the Garden of Eden. God’s solution to Adam’s rebellion was to promise the coming of Jesus as Lord and Saviour for the forgiveness of sins – to provide a way back to God. In Mark 5, we see a power encounter between Jesus and the demon world. It reveals that Jesus is Lord and has the power over the demon world by casting out the legion of demons from this man.
Secondly, we need to see that in Jesus, the Lord provides a new life through Gospel transformation. By casting out the demons, Jesus set the man free from the slavery and power of sin and brought him into a new life in Him. In the renewing work of Jesus we have new life and new way of living – God’s way.
Thirdly, we need to understand that in every relationship there is a choice. Confronted with the Lordship of Jesus, all the people of the Gerasenes pleaded and begged Jesus to leave the area. They rejected His invitation of the Gospel to that new life. So they continue to live in the old way, with the consequences that old way in sin provides: Fear, Brokenness and Destruction.
Fourthly, we need to see that God is in charge of the history and ways of mankind to achieve His saving purposes. For example, He let Joseph’s jealous brothers sell him as a slave so by that means Joseph could become the Prime Minister of Egypt and bring his family to live in Goshen, to become a numerous people under the protection of a world leader. Joseph says to his brothers, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good – the saving of many people.” The world around us is the way it is because of the battle between the kingdoms (Satan wanting to spoil God’s good gifts) and the choices people make.
So, what is God doing about the suffering in the world? He sent Jesus to bring a new life and a new way of living. (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 19th April 2020
A question that often arises when there is terrible suffering and atrocious events happen in the world is, “Where is God?” “If God is a God of Love, how can He let this terrible suffering happen?” They are good questions, especially at times when we can feel overwhelmed by the state of the world: the deaths from the Covid-19 virus, the poverty and suffering in undeveloped countries, the cruelty of people against one another, the sense of despair from feeling powerless, and the list could go on.
When we consider what God is doing, we need to realise that there is a ‘battle’ going on, a battle that began in history when Adam and Eve rebelled against the Creator God. They removed the Creation from being under His blessing to Creation being placed under His curse. In their rebellion they aligned themselves with the forces of Satan, who wants to spoil all God’s good gifts and bring the world into destruction, in hate against God. Satan continues to tempt us to participate in his spiteful rampage, and so we hurt one another when we make bad and selfish choices. This is the cause of all suffering in this world. It is a battle in history described in Revelation Chapter 12.
However, God did not simply let Adam and Eve go; rather, He sought them out and gave them the promise of Jesus to be our Lord and Saviour. God has been working out that promise through History.
In Mark Chapter 5, we see a power encounter between Jesus the Lord and the demon world. It is the battle of the kingdoms breaking into the face of history. And the question is, ‘Who has the Power?’ Satan and his demons? Or, Jesus as Lord? As the event unfolds it becomes very clear that Jesus as Lord has the power even over the whole demon world. The man who is possessed by some 2,000+ demons races out from the gravestones to intimidate Jesus and His Disciples, but finds himself in total submission to the power and authority of Jesus.
And so we have confirmed that Jesus is Lord. He is the Son of God Who is bringing the Kingdom of God through Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins. Through Jesus as Lord and Saviour, God the Father takes us out of the family of Satan (John 8:44-47) and adopts us as children of God. When we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, He renews our hearts and transforms our minds so we bear the Fruit of the Holy Spirit.
And so, we have two kingdoms in battle in the world. The kingdom of Satan bringing Fear, Brokenness and Destruction, and the Kingdom of God through Jesus our Lord bringing Love, Restoration and Peace. Jesus has won the war at the Cross (Satan’s power is bound by Jesus as Lord), but the battle continues until all those who believe are called to faith, and Jesus returns again. (Pastor Alan)
Easter Sunday 12th April 2020
“Jesus is Alive! He is Risen!” are the most significant words cried out in history. The Apostle Paul says that if Jesus had not been raised from the dead then our faith is futile – we are still lost in our sins. However, Jesus has indeed been raised from the Dead, literally and physically that Resurrection Sunday 2,000 years ago. In that factual event we have great joy and unspeakable comfort. Thomas did not believe the eyewitness of the Apostles; his doubt (that this was all too good to be true) led to disbelief. He declared that unless he could verify it for himself he would not believe it! The Lord Jesus tenderly and lovingly meets Thomas at his need and directs him to stop doubting and believe. We too can be so much like Thomas! In our grief and doubt we can disbelieve the Love and Power of God in salvation. Often our doubt is a matter of perspective. My Dad died of lung cancer. Cancer is a most horrible disease. But the Lord gave us a faith journey together in those two years of battling cancer that I would never like to have missed.
There are two Biblical truths ever to keep in mind:
- God is in charge of this world; He created it and He directs the history of mankind for His purpose of salvation.
- God has given the promise of salvation: “I will be your God and you will be My people”. That promise had been fulfilled in Jesus Crucified and Resurrected. There are no outside forces that can make God change his purposes or will. In Jesus, the Lord has committed Himself in adoption to eternal destiny – we are His children and He will work all things out for our good.
How do we deal with death of a lost one or the atrocities in the world? People only die when God has ordained for them to die; it is written in His Book. And so we do not grieve without hope. Ask the Lord to strengthen you so your grief does not lead to doubt. Also, do not blame God for sin. Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God and brought the curse of sin in all its horribleness, devastation and corruption into the world. Immediately Adam and Eve sinned, God sought them and gave the promise of Jesus – His solution to man’s rebellion.
He has been working out that solution in our history ever since and will until the end of time. A glorious Promise that comes to its zenith in the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus! In His Resurrection we have our resurrection – now with renewed hearts of faith and at the end of time with renewed bodies – to live with the Lord in glory for eternity. Jesus said to Thomas (and to you and me),
“Stop doubting! But Believe!”
“Jesus is Alive! He has Risen!”
What a wonderful and glorious truth! Let’s celebrate that. (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 5th April 2020
Today is known on the Church calendar as Palm Sunday. It is the Sunday before Easter when we remember the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. In this event Jesus publicly declares that He is the Messiah-King as He accepts the Royal welcome of the crowds. Before this, Jesus had told people to be quiet because His time was not yet at hand. Now it was time to begin His Passion – the time of suffering that led to the Cross – and Jesus publicly shows His hand.
The problem was that, while the people praised Jesus as the coming Messiah, they saw Jesus as a political revolutionary – one Who would lead the battle of freedom from the hated Romans. But Jesus came to bring the universal and spiritual Kingdom of God: Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins, reconciling sinful man with the Holy God, to fellowship with Him to His glory forever.
Another problem was that the people were awestruck by the power of Jesus – they looked at all the miracles He had performed. They wanted the power of Jesus to back their cause: political freedom. And we so often struggle with the same today – seeking the power of Jesus to back our causes, whether it is popularity, authority over others, not having sickness, or seeking prosperity and wealth, and the list can go on. But Jesus calls us to His ‘cause’ – to bring the Gospel to all nations; serving Him as our Lord and King.
A third problem was that the people rejected Jesus as their Messiah-King on His terms. One day they praised Jesus as the Son of David and the next they screamed for Him to be crucified! This rejection brought Judgement! In 70AD Jerusalem was destroyed. Jesus is not merely a (religious) choice – He is the King over the heavens and earth Who commands allegiance. He died on the Cross to reconcile us to the Lord God. If we shun Him as Lord and Saviour, we will face His Judgement.
In the Triumphal Entry Jesus declared Himself as the Messiah-King. It was a humiliating experience for Him, and the glory of the Gospel is this: in His Humiliation is our exaltation! (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 29th March 2020
The Covid-19 virus has us on the hop. It seems that there are changes being made to regulations each day! Now we are into some forwards and backwards on regulations, as reactions to the hurriedly made regulations set in. The Governing and Health Authorities are between a rock and a hard place. They have extremely difficult decisions to make. As the virus and its effects come too close to home when friends and family members die from it, we can begin to feel overwhelmed, anxious and a little fearful even. But in this rapidly changing and uncertain time, there is one immovable constant: the Promises of God, the Lord God the Creator and our Heavenly Father.
Psalm 46 tells us that even if the one very immovable thing in nature – that is the mountains with their power and grandeur – should fall into the sea, God remains constant, immovable, and unchangeable by any outside forces. And that constancy and immovability also applies to His promises! Therefore, encourages the Psalmist – WE WILL NOT FEAR! God is working it out.
The second thing the Psalmist encourages us to do is look to the Lord, His power and promises and so BE STILL! Be still and know that the Lord is God. Look up to heaven and then look out to the world. Look at the Covid-19 virus from God’s perspective. How in mercy, He is calling the whole world to acknowledge Him as Creator, as the Lord! How the Lord is shaking the nest of our western culture of laziness, indulgence, and sense of self entitlement. How being isolated calls us to be still, a time to evaluate our living before the Lord, how we are using His gifts of grace in nature and our lives.
“Do not fear”: the Lord is our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble – He has promised and made those promises real in His Son, Jesus of Nazareth. And, “Be Still…”: know that the Lord is God – He will be exalted among the nations. He is the Lord! (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 1st March 2020
The murder of Hannah Clark and her three children, and the suicide of her husband have rocked the nation. It was brutal, horrific and totally unacceptable. It was a betrayal of the innocence of his children and the intimate relationship with his wife: they had the right to his love and protection as father and husband. How are we to react to such a malicious and intentional act of murder?
Firstly, with Compassion. All of us, by the default of our sinful nature, have the potential to acts of violence; whether it be the murder of babies forming in the womb, (from the very place that should always be a safe place for an innocent baby), through to gossip intended to malign. In Matthew 6:22 Jesus says that anyone who is angry at his brother (wishes him harm) or calls him a fool, is subject to the judgement of murder before the Lord. As we all have the potential to harm others, we can be compassionate rather than judgemental.
Secondly, with Patience. This event is horrific in the extreme, and it will push psychological triggers and emotional reactions that people need to process and work through. We will see this event from different perspectives – but name calling and demonising is not a constructive way to deal with this matter. Let’s be patient with one another as we process this event. In Colossians 3:12 the Apostle Paul calls us to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Thirdly, with Truth. Let’s call things what they really are! We can try to understand the context to events without letting it be an excuse. Murder is never acceptable; choosing to be angry and letting anger drive your thinking and actions is not acceptable. As men we need to ‘call out’ (hold to account) other men when they do not honour their wives and children, and not hide behind ‘not wanting to get involved’ – if you know, you are involved. In Ephesians 4:15 we are told not to be blown backwards and forwards by wrong teaching/thinking; instead we are to speak the truth in love, so we will be built up in Christ.
Lastly, but not exhaustively, with Respect. In Matthew 22:39 Jesus, in summarising the 10 Commandments, calls us to love our neighbour as ourselves. In Ephesians 5 wives are called to respect their husbands, and husbands to love their wives as Christ loved His Bride, the Church, always seeking the best for her, even to the extent of laying down His life for her! We meet this violence and ‘intimidation of intimate partners’ when, by the Lord’s grace, we treat one another with this Biblical respect!
Ultimately, as Christians we believe the answer to intimidation and violence is to be transformed by the Holy Spirit into a Biblical way of thinking and living by giving our hearts in faith to Jesus Christ. In Jesus we have the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to love and forgive, to make things right and treat one another with respect. (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 23rd February 2020
Many people live in fear; a feeling of disempowerment and helplessness. It is not unusual at times to feel overwhelmed by life and things being out of control. This fear, however, is not part of God’s created order; it came about as a part of the curse of death on creation when Adam and Eve deliberately rebelled against the Lord God. How do we deal with our fears?
Simply put, by Believing in Jesus as Lord. As He calmed the wind and the waves and protected the Disciples from the elements, so He also calms the storms of our life and gives us peace. Think of the greatest storm and fear in life, Death, which is the penalty and corruption of sin: mankind condemned by God’s anger on sin. Jesus as Lord laid down His life on the Cross as payment for sin and took His life up again in the resurrection from the grave, conquering sin and death and the power of Satan. In Jesus our Lord, our fear of death becomes an act of worship – because Jesus as the first-fruits (the One Who goes on before us) of the Resurrection guarantees our resurrection from the dead too!
When we commit a Christian’s body to the elements it is with a sense of celebration: He or she has gone to be with Jesus in the Room He has prepared for him/her (John 14:1-3). The fear of death becomes the worship of Jesus, the conqueror of death, our joy and comfort as we face our own death. Jesus as Lord brings us from fear to worship as we face life believing and trusting in Him as our Lord and Saviour. (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 16th February 2020
In our western culture we are ‘wired’ to achieve; to perform and reach satisfactory outcomes. We measure each other by what sort of jobs we have, what wages we earn, what kind of houses we live in and the cars we drive. They all make up a picture of how we measure people; we consider them successful if they achieve this stuff.
And often we have the same thinking in the church; we measure a ministry a success by how many people attended; we set outcomes for what we will achieve, say, double our congregation by 2025 and are disappointed if we do not achieve our goals (we must be doing something wrong!).
But you know, the Kingdom of God doesn’t really operate that way. In 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, the Apostle Paul teaches that God chose what was foolish to shame the wise, and the weak to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in this world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.
To put it simply, God brings the significant from the insignificant.
Why? So that no human might boast in the presence of God.
Our boasting, our achievements, our goal setting and significance are to be found in the Lord and His work in our lives. In living the Christian life, our thinking needs to be transformed from the western culture default of what I am achieving to letting God be at work in me. God is bringing in His Kingdom by His power, and we have the privilege to participate in this! When we look to Jesus as the Head of the Church and seek to serve Him and allow God to be at work through His Word and Holy Spirit, then God will release His Gospel power in our lives.
Elsewhere the Apostle Paul confesses ‘I worked harder than any of the apostles, though it was not I but the grace of God that is within me’. The western culture seeks significance in outcomes and performance – our achievements. The Kingdom of God, however, works significance from insignificance. Be faithful in the little things and God will work out the big things. (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 9th February 2020
Once a couple came to our door; they were Jehovah Witnesses. I listened to them for a while and then asked them, “How do you dare to come to people’s doors and offer a religion that is not certain?” You might be saved if you do these things and worship in this place; you might be one of the 144,000 reigning with Jesus in heaven … Why would you want me to put the trust of my eternal destiny in a bunch of ‘mights’? The way I read the Bible, if you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour through True Repentance and Faith, then you are adopted as sons of God and will reign with Jesus in heaven forever. Why would I want to give that up for a bunch of ‘mights’?
Now that raises the question, “Is the Kingdom of God a certain thing?” Is it something in which I can place my trust for my eternal destiny? How do I know that when I die it wasn’t all a big religious hoax? You see, when we witness to the Gospel then we are asking people to do precisely that: to put all their eggs in one basket.
The thing that sets Christianity apart from every other religion and philosophy is that salvation is God’s work in us. God created the world for His glory, then we ‘mucked it up’ in Adam, and since that day in the Garden, God has been working out His plan of making things right between Him and us. This plan that He has brought in – Jesus Crucified and Resurrected – He works in us through His Word and Holy Spirit. Because salvation (being made right with God) is the work of His Divine Grace (including being adopted as sons of God!) it is by its very nature certain, as God Himself is certain. It is on that basis that we dare to declare the Gospel message! (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 2nd February 2020
We all know that there is something wrong in the world. And when that something wrong impacts us, the question is often asked, “How can God let these terrible things happen?” If God is the God of love, why doesn’t He do something about the hurt and pain and misery in the world?
How would you answer that question?
You see, underlying that question is the accusation that the wrong in this world is God’s fault! It is somewhat ironic that God is often asked not to be part of our lives. He is belittled and ignored, with Christianity being pushed out of the market place; and then when the chips are down, God is blamed! Well, whose fault is it that there is something wrong in the world? Not God’s! It is ours!
He created the world perfect. However, mankind rebelled through the sin of Adam when he and Eve decided that they did not want God to be in charge of their lives. This put the whole creation under the curse of God’s anger. The wrong things in this world are the result of people making bad choices and others being hurt by those choices as we follow the selfish desires of our hearts. If we do not live by the order and pattern that the Lord as Creator has set, then bad things will happen. A fish cannot be a fish if it lives out of the water. A train cannot run if it does not stay on the tracks. How can God let this happen? By giving us the choice of love, and Adam chose badly.
But you know, God is doing something about the things that are wrong in this world. He is restoring the relationship that Adam and Eve broke. He sent Jesus to die on the Cross to turn away His anger and satisfy His justice. When we repent and believe in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, the Lord also gives us new hearts that want to love and serve and care for others.
What is God doing about it? He sent Jesus, His One and Only Son to pay for the sins of those who repent and believe, and restores them into a loving relationship with Himself. That is called the Gospel! (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 26th January 2020
Today is Australia Day! It is day when we are able to reflect and celebrate what it means to be Australian and live in this vast and diverse country called Australia. For most people it will mean BBQ’s and parties, concerts in the park and picnics, camping, fishing and boating, Tennis Opens and cricket matches; generally having a good time! For others it is about a citizenship ceremony which is often at the end of a long journey. And for yet others, a day of hurt and remembering injustices. So what does it mean to be Australian?
The mythological Australian is seen as the swagman larrikin who thumbs his nose at authority but still submits to it; who is quick to lend a hand and willing to give anything and everyone a ‘fair go’. What then is important to Australians? Is it freedom, sports, mateship and owning your own home? Australia is often called the “Lucky Country” and I wonder if we truly realise how blessed we are to live here. There is a tendency to take our great blessings for granted; to live with a sense of entitlement, as if we deserve what we have.
However, Australia is God’s country; He designed and created it with all its beauty and grandeur, in its pleasantness and harshness. All that we have belongs to Him and we hold it in trust as stewards for Him. When we think ‘Australia’, let us think, “The Lord’s!” and give Him the praise and honour for it.
And so, Australia Day is about celebration, celebrating the greatness and goodness of the Lord God Who has gifted it for our use. I am proud to be Australian and delighted to live in this blessed country – warts and pimples and all – as God’s steward of His blessed gifts. (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 19th January 2020
Have you ever had the experience that something was so wonderful that it was unbelievable – like a dream and so you pinch yourself to see if it is real? The Israelites were returning from the Captivity in Babylon. King Cyrus of the Medes had conquered Babylon overnight and sent back the Captives to their homeland with the Temple articles and the means to rebuild the Temple. They were back in their homeland; back under the promises of God. They shouted for joy and with gladness!
And yet, the former glory of the Temple is missing: No Ark of the Covenant, No Shekinah glory of smoke, no glory and riches – in reality just a shell. The Temple being a lesser temple was to pave the way to the greater Temple of God: Jesus Christ.
In Jesus, Gospel restoration comes in all its fullness and glory. The sacrifices of the Temple that could never take away sins would be replaced by the once-for-all-sacrifice of Jesus. The Old Covenant that required obedience of the people would be replaced by the New Covenant with the obedience of Christ and His payment for sins on the Cross.
As Christians today we can relate to the Returned Captives. We have the joy and gladness of the Gospel – being saved and having the new life in Jesus. But we do not yet have it in its fullness. So we sow with the tears of pain, brokenness and disappointment, but reap the joy of Gospel gladness. And we look forward to coming “home” to heaven where there will be no more tears, death, crying or pain – but all things will have been made new.
Let us with all believers live today in the joy of the Lord’s grace and compassion, with the anticipation of the fullness of glory of heaven in the future. (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 12th January 2020
The Royal Commission exposed corruption within the churches of Australia, especially that of sexual abuse. In fact Cardinal Pell (the highest ranking clergy in Australia) has been jailed, being convicted for sexual abuse of altar boys under his care. The church has fallen into disrepute to such an extent that in the eyes of many, pastors are seen as people not to be trusted. The charge is that you sing songs of love and preach healing but where is the safety of the church!
It was like that with Israel in Captivity in Babylon. They sat by the waters of Babylon and wept for Zion; for Jerusalem, the seat of God’s promise. And the Babylonian soldiers mocked the Captives, “Sing! Sing your songs of Zion the city of the great God! – but it is our gods who reign!” And the people said, ‘How can we sing?’ Here we sit as God’s own people in captivity, as slaves in a foreign land – where we deserve to be, because we have rebelled and rejected the Lord our God. We have only gotten what we deserved – that is our despair.
We could say the same of the church today, as we receive news of another Pastor being convicted of sexual crimes. So, what is the future? It is the same as always! Repent and return to the Lord.
It is His church. Salvation is His purpose and plan. He promises forgiveness and a new start upon true Repentance: submitting the heart to faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour and bowing the knee in obedience to His Lordship. When Israel repented, the Lord God decimated the Babylonian Kingdom overnight and restored the people, temple and city of Jerusalem. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation! Therefore, while our reputation in the eyes of the community is in disrepute, there is renewal in the power of the Gospel. Believe it, live in it, have hope and joy from it. (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 5th January 2020
It is the first Sunday of the New Year and a new Decade! How does the New Year look to you? Some live in fear of the future. Psychologists write that school children are suffering from a new condition called ‘eco-anxiety’. Basically they feel that they are going to die soon from a natural holocaust. This brings a sense of hopelessness. Others feel overwhelmed by what seems to be an unending line of disasters and tragedies happening.
What are we to think about these things as Christians?
As God’s people we live with confidence and hope, even in the face of hopelessness and despair. Why? Because God is the Creator, and is Sovereign over all things. He is working out His plan and purpose to bring about Peace, Hope and a Future in our lives and in world events. Whatever the future brings, it will be under the control of the Heavenly Father as part of working out His purpose and plan through Jesus in history.
The Lord God created mankind to fellowship with Him for His glory, and God is busy through Jesus His Son restoring that fellowship with Him by calling to repentance a rebellious mankind – which may include tragedy as the means of extending His grace. Remember, Satan wants to spoil all God’s good gifts, but the Lord uses the evil intent of Satan to bring about His purposes of salvation.
Think about the Cross, the highest expression of sinful mankind’s rebellion and hate, and yet the Lord transforms that same Cross into His highest mark of Love and Acceptance in Jesus Crucified. Indeed, we can be content and confident as we trust in the Lord. Our God reigns! (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 29th December 2019
I tried watching the Myer Bowl Christmas in the Park on TV the other night. It was astounding how much effort and performance was put into Santa coming! In the part I watched, the nativity scene was a non-event. A bit like the first Christmas, the coming of Christ was almost a public non-event – just Joseph & Mary, the Angels, Shepherds, the Wise Men, Simeon & Anna, and a few who were awaiting the consolation of Israel.
Why such a small number for such a history changing event? Because, the Israelites had a different expectation about the Messiah. They were waiting for a Messiah-King Who would come with an army to drive out the Romans. They were not expecting a baby! And yet, in God’s plan of salvation it was this baby, the Christ-Child, Who would bring the light of revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Israel. How?
Through division and heartache, Jesus as Lord and Saviour died on the Cross for our sins, and His death confronts us with our sins – as it reveals the thoughts of the heart.
Who do you say Jesus is? If you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, then His Word shines into the darkness of your sinful life and renews it to His ways of Holiness. If you do not believe in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, then you will remain lost in the darkness of your sins and the consequences of it.
Santa is not threatening! We all know that he is a myth that allows us to feel good without any challenges. The Child in a manger however is another story altogether! As the Messiah, He ‘reveals the thoughts of the heart’ and calls for a response with eternal consequences’. You cannot simply romanticise it! I can well imagine that the nativity scene will become more and more a non-event in our televised Christmas in the Parks; it is less threatening that way. (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 22nd December 2019
“Jesus is the Reason for the Season!”
That’s what we say as Christians. But is it true? Can we declare that Jesus is the real reason for Christmas, and Santa Claus with other Christmas stories are but myths? Isn’t it just something for Christians to celebrate? That is good question.
Our children are getting into trouble at school for insisting that Jesus is the real reason for Christmas! It is interesting that Doctor Luke writes his Gospel to present Theophilus with an ordered account that he may have ‘certainty’ concerning the Gospel. Luke believes that he is writing his account based on historical and true facts. He presents the credentials of Joseph & Mary, and Simeon and Anna to show that they are trustworthy and reliable witnesses to the fact that the Baby Jesus presented at the Temple was the Messiah – God’s promise of salvation to His people and the Gentiles.
The conclusion? Jesus is the Messiah, God’s Salvation to the whole world. He is not merely a Jewish story, but the universal Saviour! Not merely a Christian religion thing, but the Saviour that has come for the whole world.
And so, without any apology, we can declare that Jesus is the Reason for the Season. And that He has come as the Saviour for the Whole world – in fact what we think of Jesus will determine our eternal destiny! But more on that next week. (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 15th December 2019
What’s the point?! Why do what we do for Christmas? The Christmas tree, the decorations, the parties, the get-togethers, the carol evenings, the presents – with the delayed surprise of the credit card bill at the end of the next month. Why do we do it?
“It’s Christmas!” But what does it really mean? Is this Christmas Cheer a façade, a sophisticated excuse to party? Is it simply a romantic interlude to our hectic lives? Or simply something ‘nice’ for the children? We have all sorts of motivations and expectations of Christmas.
In Luke Chapter 1, we find Zechariah’s Song in which he sings about the coming of his son, John the Baptist, and how his task is to prepare the hearts of Israel for the coming Saviour, Jesus Christ. Why did their hearts need preparing? Were they not eagerly anticipating the coming of the Messiah-King? Yes, they were indeed. But their expectations were that this King would come and drive out the hated Romans from their land and re-establish the Kingdom of David in all its glory as the political capital of the world.
However, the reason why Jesus came was to bring the forgiveness of sins; reconciling a sinful, rebellious mankind to the Lord God. Without repentance and forgiveness (being reconciled to the Lord), the nation of Israel as a political world power would have no meaning. It would be an empty structure.
Jesus was born at Bethlehem to be the Saviour – to bring Forgiveness of Sins. If our Christmas celebration does not have that at the heart of it, it is but an empty ritual. The ‘reason for the season’ is God’s forgiveness in Jesus Christ, Who was born in Bethlehem to die at Calvary – our Lord and Saviour. Let’s celebrate Christmas with a sense of Joy and Wonder that the Lord God should come to us in the Christ-Child, and then let us share that Good News with others. (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 8th December 2019
What does Christmas do for you? How do you celebrate Christmas? Some dread Christmas! It reminds them of disappointments and being alone. Others prefer to ignore Christmas – the Bible does not command it to be celebrated, or, it is all so commercialised!
But perhaps there is another way to look at Christmas. Rather than considering what it does for you, maybe we should consider what it does for God? After all, it is His miraculous event in history.
Humanly speaking, Mary was going through a terrible time. She was about 13-14 years old, engaged, from a backwater town of Nazareth, and now pregnant. Under the law that would be a stoning offence. Her fiancé wants to break it off with her, and people probably speculated she was pregnant from a Roman Soldier, as Nazareth was on the outskirts of a Roman Garrison. But in her terrible time there was a unique event – the Angel Gabriel had announced that Mary was chosen by the Lord to give birth to the promised Messiah!
Mary’s Song of Response shows us how to celebrate Christmas. It is a song of Praise and Wonder about the mercy and faithfulness of the Lord God through history leading up to this event, the birth of Jesus, Who was born to die on the Cross for our sins, reconciling us through faith to the Lord God.
Whichever way you may choose to celebrate the day, bear in mind that there is no Gospel without Christmas. Let’s celebrate the event with a sense of wonder and praise in our hearts that the Lord would send His Son in this way, would do this for me, an undeserving, rebellious sinner!!! (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 24th November 2019
There are many voices in society crying out, “Come and follow me!” From ‘Climate Change’ which will save the planet from destruction, to gurus of self-determination and awareness, to causes for freedom from (all types of) oppression, to you deserve a happy life – if you will follow these steps. All these voices promise better things for you if you will join their cause. And that is the ‘crunch’ – they are all just ‘causes’. The True Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is something on another level altogether. In fact, by repentance and faith in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, you enter into a new reality, which is the Kingdom of God – a new reality that brings a new relationship in being reconciled to the Lord God, the Creator of the universe, with a new set of values in following the Lord’s pattern for living found in the Bible, along with a new heart in being forgiven, living in and loving with the love of the Lord, and a new eternity, living in the glory of heaven.
The Bible teaches there are only two ways of living – in the darkness in the Kingdom of Satan, or in the light in the Kingdom of God. Everything else is but a “cause”, a movement, which may or may not bring change; but it is not the new reality of the Gospel which guarantees the change of new life in Jesus Christ. In Mark 4, in the Parable of the Lamp, Jesus calls us to understand that the Gospel is true and real, and Jesus calls us to live in that new reality that the Gospel brings, to let the light of the Gospel shine in the darkness of this world which is under the rule of Satan. Will you live in that reality? (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 17th November 2019
When Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan into sin and rebellion against the Lord God, the Lord sought Adam out, confronted him with his rebellion, and made a promise. This promise (Genesis 3:15) was that a descendant of Adam would be born to be the Saviour of the world by defeating Satan. But for a line of descendants to be born, there needs to be a nation for that family line to be preserved for generations.
So the Lord raised up Abraham as the Father of the Israelite nation, with the Promise of the Covenant: “I will be your God and you will be My people” (Genesis 15:1-14). And for a nation to survive, it needs laws and a religious system through which to have a relationship with, and worship, the Lord their God. And so we see in the Old Testament, the Lord God providing the sacrificial system.
But this sacrificial system was not adequate to take away (pay for) sins; that is why day after day the priests made sacrifice. Why did the Lord accept the sacrifices if they did not take away the sins of the people? Because they were given in light of the perfect sacrifice that was to come in the Death of Jesus Christ; the Perfect High Priest. It is like accepting the payment of a credit card – that payment at the till has no value in itself, but it promises payment when it is lodged at the bank. And so it is with the sacrifices and Jesus. The Old Covenant with Israel was based on ‘good works’; if you obey Me I will bless you – if you do not obey me I will withdraw My blessings. The history of Israel shows that we cannot obey the Lord in our own strength.
It needs something else – and that something is the (Re)New(ed) Covenant with Jesus as our High Priest offering Himself as the perfect once-for-all-time sacrifice for sins in our place. We can obtain that forgiveness in Jesus through Repentance and Faith in Him as our Lord and Saviour. In the New Covenant, God’s promise is still the same: “I will be your God and you will be My People”, but the basis of the relationship is not obedience through our own strength, but the obedience Christ provides for us by Repentance and Faith in Him. And that is why it is a new and better Covenant! (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 10th November 2019
How does the Christian faith work? Is the church a club you belong to? Is the Church a group of people with a common religious interest? How do you get into the church community?
In the times of Jesus, the people were expecting a mighty King to come and lead them in war against the Romans and rebuild Jerusalem as the political capital of the world – like it was in the time of King David. They thought that Jesus was the man with power to lead them in this war. But in the Parable of the Sower, Jesus teaches that the Kingdom of God is not earthly or political, holding people together by outward laws and structures.
The Kingdom of God is about being reconciled to the Lord God by repentance and faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, which comes through the Gospel message. And so, the Kingdom of God is spiritual in nature – it renews from the inside out, loving Jesus by faith and so living for Him not by Law but in thankfulness. The Church is made of Believers joined together by faith in Jesus Christ.
The Parable of the Sower shows that there are different heart responses to the Gospel message; a hardened heart that rejects the Gospel; an impulsive heart that seeks what it can gain from the Gospel; a pre-occupied heart that is distracted by anxiety, wealth and pleasure; and, a responsive heart that by the renewing work of the Holy Spirit believes in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Being aware of the different heart responses helps to understand why people come and go in the church.
But it is also a warning for us; we can have these heart responses too, even as we live the Christian life! A heart hardened in bitterness; a heart that seeks what it can get and is disgruntled if it is not done our way; a heart that gets pre-occupied with the things of this world.
So let us encourage one another in the faith! The glory of the Gospel is that we do not have to remain in that state of heart. The Lord promises forgiveness on true repentance, and the Holy Spirit renews our hearts to Him again. (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 3rd November 2019
‘Reformed? Reformed from what? Have you guys come from a juvenile centre?’ This was often a comment in earlier days – so it was decided to add the name “Christian” to make it more what type of Reformed we are. So why the name “Reformed” in our church name, ‘Tanilba Christian Reformed Church’?
Well, a name often declares an identity or value. For example, the Baptist Church is called that to reflect that they hold to Believer’s Baptism. The former name of the Anglican Church – the Church of England – reflects that the queen was the official head of the church. The Pentecostal Church reflects that they hold that they are a church from Pentecost – that the extraordinary gifts shown at Pentecost still hold for us as Christians today. When our forefathers started the Reformed Churches of Australia, their desire was to make clear that the Reformed Church has its roots in the Reformation.
In what is known as the Reformation in the 1500’s, the Protestants rose up against the teachings of the Catholic Church. The main issue was about ‘How are we saved by Jesus Christ?’ The Church at the time taught that in His death on the Cross, Jesus paid for your original sin (inherited from Adam), with forgiveness of that obtained through Baptism, but you had to pay for what you did wrong in this life by good works. And if you did not have enough good works, you would go to Purgatory where your unpaid sins were purged by the time spent there, and then you would proceed on to heaven.
No! No! No! said the Reformers. The Bible teaches that all our best efforts are still tainted with sin; we simply cannot earn our way into heaven at all! No! It is only by the blood of our Crucified Jesus that we are made right with God. It is the work of Christ, and Christ alone. We obtain this salvation by faith which the Holy Spirit works in our hearts. Salvation is by the grace of God as His free gift. This belief became a catch cry, “Saved by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, in Christ Alone.” The Reformation was simply a return to the Gospel! The name ‘Reformed’ means coming from the Reformation which is all about the Gospel! We are a Gospel believing church indeed! (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 27th October, 2019
Often we like to think of the Gospel in “nice” terms; kind, patient, loving, accepting – ‘God is love’ and ‘Jesus loves you’ sort of thing. And it is that, but there is so much more to the Gospel. It is also about eternal consequences (eternal life with Jesus or eternal condemnation in hell), which centres on the honour of God as Creator, Jesus as Lord and the Holy Spirit as the One Who empowers.
In Mark 3:28-35 Jesus confronts two groups of people with very serious warnings! One group was the Church Leaders who charged that Jesus was in partnership with the devil and the Holy Spirit was actually a demon! They wanted to dehumanise Jesus and demonise Him to make Him look evil, so that the crowds would no longer follow Him and their position as Religious leaders would be safe – in other words, a vicious and evil smear campaign. In no uncertain terms, Jesus tells them they have crossed the line and that there is no forgiveness for such an evil and heinous sin (if the work of Jesus is of the devil, it follows there can be no forgiveness of sins because the work of the devil is to destroy, spoil and oppress). They are condemned to eternity in hell.
The other group was the Family of Jesus who considered Jesus to be ‘out of His mind’, obsessed with the popularity of the crowd. In their unbelief, they had come to take Jesus away into family custody for His own good. But this action denied Jesus as Lord – it also said that Jesus was not to be followed as Lord. Jesus could not allow His family to deny or distract Him in His work as Lord and Saviour, bringing the forgiveness of sins upon true repentance. As Lord, He was establishing a new family – the Family of God, where believers were adopted as the sons and daughters of God. The spiritual family of God is not to be usurped by the family of relatives.
But here we see the mercy of God in the promise of Jesus (verse 28) – all sins and blasphemies of man will be forgiven (but not the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which is what the Church leaders did!). We see in Acts 1:14 that the Family of Jesus was in the Upper Room with the Disciples waiting for Pentecost – for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on the churches. They had repented, become believers and were forgiven! The Gospel is “nice” to salvation but it also condemns to hell! May the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ be your saving grace. (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 20th October, 2019
The question throughout the ages has been, “Who is Jesus of Nazareth?” Is He a Lunatic, a Liar or the Lord?
The family of Jesus thought that Jesus was a Lunatic – out of His mind. They thought that Jesus had become obsessed with the attention of the constant large crowds and had got carried away with their demands. They considered that He was doing all sorts of strange things, which only seemed strange because at that time (John 7:5) they did not believe He was the Son of God (in Acts 1:14, we see that later they came to believe in Jesus as Lord).
The Scribes, who had come down from Jerusalem representing the Sanhedrin, came to the verdict that Jesus was a Liar – that He was not the Son of God at all but in partnership with the devil! He got the power to cast out demons and heal people from the demon world, and so they encouraged people not to follow Jesus!
Jesus, however, declared that He was Lord; Jesus Christ – the Son of God Who brought forgiveness of sins in response to true repentance. The work of Jesus, as seen in His healing and the casting out of demons, was to set people free who have been enslaved by Satan. Jesus was liberating them from Satan’s Kingdom; that is the exact opposite to the work of Satan, whose self-proclaimed work is to enslave, corrupt and destroy. So the verdict of the Scribes was absurd! But also evil! (More about that next week).
Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Christ – the Son of God Who came to bring the Good News of God, Repentance and the Forgiveness of Sins.
Who do you say Jesus is? (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 13th October, 2019
There is a saying, “God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things!” And that is the life of the Church; ordinary people used by God to do extraordinary things. We see this when Jesus appointed His 12 Disciples, just 12 ordinary ‘you wouldn’t believe He would pick them’ men! They were fishermen, farmers, political agitators and tax-collectors. No Harvard graduates, white collar workers, Clerics, nor Captains – nope, just 12 ordinary men. Jesus goes up the mountain, prays all night to the Father, comes down and appoints 12 ordinary men to be His Disciples. In fact they are more than that – they are commissioned as Apostles, His “Sent out Ones”, as His official representatives.
Meanwhile, the church leaders are enraged at Jesus and now plot to kill Him. The Cardinals of Jerusalem, official delegates from the Sanhedrin, have come down from Jerusalem to investigate Jesus and make a verdict about His authenticity as a Teacher. Jesus is now on the journey to the Cross as opposition grows and will eventually condemn Him to death on the Cross. In preparation for His Death, Resurrection and Ascension, Jesus appoints a group of men to continue on His work of the Gospel; calling people to `Repent and Receive the Forgiveness of Sins’; to build the church! And whom does He choose? 12 ordinary men. Later we see Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, preaching at Pentecost, and some 3,000 people repented and believed – the church was born!
The Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 2 that the (preaching of the) apostles were the foundation upon which the church was built. You and I will never be apostles – that was a calling only to these 12 ordinary men, but when we, by faith in Jesus Christ, have the Holy Spirit living in our hearts and the Bible in our hand, we can do extraordinary things for the Kingdom! One of which is to (continue to) build up His church! You and I have also been called by Jesus, through faith, to be His Disciples to continue the work of the Gospel wherever He places us in life. Let the Lord work the extraordinary through us ordinary people! (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 6th October, 2019
Everybody would agree that there is something wrong in the world! Some would say that we are on the verge of extinction because of the Climate Change Crisis. Others say that President Trump should be impeached. The Rohingya people, some one million of them, are still in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Others seek equal pay, others equal rights, others a voice. Slavery still exists in epic proportions in the world. Domestic violence is till prevalent, and terrorism leaves half the world living in fear. Let alone the natural disasters of drought, bush fires, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and cyclones. And then, the disaster of Brexit and other political unrest around the world. What about broken relationships, terminal illnesses, suicide and mental health issues? There is definitely something wrong in the world!
Where does this `wrongness’ come from? What has caused the world and mankind to be broken the way that it is? Some say it is ignorance; we need to be educated. Others blame the environment: we need better housing, higher paid jobs. Other put it down to inequality, and so the list goes on. But these are only addressing symptoms at best. The Bible tells us that the root, that the reason, of all our problems is sin. The broken relationship between the Lord God with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. As the Creator, Who made the heavens and the earth, and as our Heavenly Father, God always demands that `we are to love Him above everything else.’ But Adam and Eve decided to be as god and be in charge of their own destiny. They rebelled against the demand to love God above everything else and brought the curse of sin on all creation.
How can we fix it? Well, the Lord God gave the solution in the Garden of Eden, He was sending a Saviour to pay the price for our sin (to turn away God’s anger) and put things right again. If we are truly sorry for our sins (for rebelling against the Lord God) and believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, then we will be saved: that is, be made right with the Lord. At the Judgment, the Lord will set the creation free from the curse of sin and make it new again. Meanwhile, as followers of Jesus, we are called to redeem (make things right in) the world by applying the Gospel in returning to, and following, the Lord’s pattern in creation in all things. We all agree that there is something wrong in the world – the Bible tells us that something is sin. (Pastor Alan)