Sunday 27th August 2023 : Anger: Are you a wise of foolish person?
It is so easy to simply “lose your rag” or “go off the deep end” in a fit of anger. The checkout lady places the cleaning agent with the fresh food in the bag and it pushes your buttons. ‘Excuse me! Don’t they train you to pack bags?! Everyone knows that cleaning agents smell will taint the fresh food! Are you lacking in intelligence or something?!’ And then we have social media, where many simply shoot off angry, emotional (and even abusive) responses without taking the time to check out the facts or think things through. The Teacher says in Proverbs 29:11, “A fool gives vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” In other words, a quick-tempered person is a foolish person.
So, what is anger and how does it work? Anger is an instinctive response to a perceived threat. The perceived threat may be fear, OR, unfulfilled expectations, OR, not feeling in control. It is a survival response which often simply acts without too much thought. When you get angry, your heart rate increases substantially as your body pumps adrenaline through the system, your breathing becomes rapid and your brain effectively shuts down. Have you noticed that you cannot reason with an angry person? The Teacher says that ‘… a fool gives vent to his anger…’. He is simply venting because anger has turned off the ‘reason’ button.
But funnily enough, even though it is a fight or flight response, nevertheless it can be controlled. It is actually a choice you make, as the Teachers says: “But a wise man keeps himself under control.” People cannot make you be angry; it is a choice you choose to make in response to their actions or words. Anger under control is called “indignation”, and it is a positive force used wisely to bring about justice and protection – the way Jesus was angry. Anger out of control is called ‘venting’ and always brings harm and hurt.
There are various techniques to control anger, but the best is to trace the source of anger, what pushes your buttons or triggers an anger response, and then by God’s grace and the empowerment of the Word and Holy Spirit, to resolve the issue. One of the ways that a wise man keeps himself under control is by seeking and resolving the source of being angry.
What a comfort it is that God the Father is not a rash angry god, but is slow to anger and abounding in love. And more so, that He deals with His just anger at our rebellion by pouring it out on Jesus on the Cross, so that we (by repentance and faith) might be under His Fatherly love and care. When you consider the way you handle anger, are you a wise or foolish person? Pastor Alan
Sunday 20th August 2023 : Philadelphia – Weak and yet Strong
Many of you may remember the illustration that if you light one match, it is easy to blow out. But if you light several matches together, they are a lot harder to blow out. The idea is that there is strength in numbers when Christians stick together. On the one hand there is merit to that idea, as Hebrews calls us to ‘Hold fast the confession of our Hope’, and ‘not to neglect meeting together but to stir one another to love and good works’ (Hebrews 10:23-25). This indeed encourages group effort; functioning together adds to the Body of Christ. However, on the other hand our strength is not in numbers but in the Lord. Churches with a big membership are not necessarily ‘stronger’ than little churches. We see this with the Church of Philadelphia in Revelation Chapter 3. It was a wee, little church and the Lord commends her for her faithfulness, obedience, loyalty and endurance, even though the Jews were persecuting them because they claimed to be the people of God (Children of Abraham – John 8:33), and how dare the Philadelphian church declare that in Christ Jesus, they are the people of God! Jesus encourages them to ‘Hold fast what you have’ for I (Jesus) hold the key of David! I am the One Who opens and shuts the door to the Kingdom of God. I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. Yes, even the Jews with the lineage of Abraham, they too can only come to the Father through Me. The Jews may accuse you of blasphemy, but I accept you in love. In My death on the Cross and my Resurrection from the Dead and Ascension into heaven, I hold the keys even to Death and Hades. So don’t worry! Be strong! I give you My Word and Reward; your salvation is assured in Me, Jesus the Holy and True One.
The comfort is that even as small churches our strength is in Christ Jesus. I can think of at least two churches in our denomination who have seriously considered closing their doors because of ‘not being viable’, of ‘not being able to support a minister’. But they simply went on faithfully as the church of God and today are thriving churches who can fully support their minister. Our strength is not so much our numbers and what action we take, as in faithfully being about the business of the Gospel – nothing is hopeless with the Gospel.
As a small church, let us not look at what we don’t have. Rather let us look at what we do have in Christ Jesus, and rejoice in His goodness and grace, and simply live for Jesus! Pastor Alan
Sunday 13th August 2023 : Sardis – Alive and yet … Dead
Sardis was a very successful church. In today’s terms it was a mega-church on steroids. Great programmes, phenomenal band and (recording) singing ministry, high powered worship services, employing heaps of people for various ministries, growing in numbers – just the place to be! Jesus said that Sardis had the reputation of being alive. And then comes the ‘clanger’ – But…you…are…DEAD. Alive but dead? How does that work? Well, basically the church had been hijacked to build personal empires using religious means. It was no longer about Jesus and the Gospel.
Consider the Pharisees. They were a group that came to prominence in the inter-testimonial period, where there was no prophecy for four hundred years and people were starting to go their own ways. They were a separatist group that stood on the commitment to the Scriptures as the Word of God, with a demanding, strict, legalistic lifestyle, so that only a few people chose to live according to its standard. It seems there were no more than about 6,000 Pharisees. Now, it started out as a noble cause by noble men: to hold to the Scriptures and live by them. But over time it degenerated into teaching that you were saved by adherence to the Law of Moses (surrounded by about 900 hundred extra rules); the better you kept the Law the closer you were to heaven. The Pharisees enslaved the Israelites by the letter of the Law, instead of the Law being the means of relationship with the Lord God through repentance and faith, to such an extent that the Pharisees denied Jesus as the Messiah and were instrumental in having Him crucified to preserve their authority and place in society. They had built an ‘empire’ for themselves using the Law of God.
This also happens with churches today using religion to further personal empires and causes. We start with the noblest of intentions but get swept up with success and power so that the Gospel is lost. But the Gospel always provides a way back! We are to repent and go back to Gospel basics and then hold on to the Gospel that has been entrusted to our care! And Jesus gives a promise. To him who overcomes, who remains faithful to the Gospel in his love for Jesus above all things, there is assurance of salvation. When you believe in Jesus and strive to live for Him, your salvation is guaranteed. You are clothed with His Righteousness, your name is written in the Book of Life by His Blood and Jesus as High Priest confesses your name (intercedes) before the Father. What joy and comfort are ours in Christ! He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Pastor Alan
Sunday 6th August 2023 : Moving Heavenward
In the Apostles’ Creed we recite that we believe that on the third day Jesus rose from the dead and ‘ascended into heaven’. Traditionally, Ascension Day has been celebrated on the Church Calendar since the 4th century (we used to have an Ascension Day Service on the Thursday evening forty days after Easter), but of recent times this has fallen by the wayside. It is a little sad really, because the Ascension of Jesus into heaven is one of the steps of His exaltation as Lord. The steps of the Exaltation of Jesus are: Jesus Rose from the dead, Ascended into heaven, is Seated (ruling as King) at the right hand of the Father, to Return to judge the living and the dead, ushering in the kingdom of God in all its fullness and glory. Therefore, like Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, the Ascension is an essential part of the Redemptive work of Christ.
The Ascension celebrates the literal and physical ascension of Jesus from this earth into heaven, as witnessed by the Apostles. The redemptive work of Jesus on earth was completed, and now in the Ascension God the Father exalted Jesus, bestowing upon Him the Name above all names so that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Philippians 2:9-11). Jesus ascending in His glorified body into heaven 1) assures us that we too will enter into heaven in our glorified bodies. 2) In His Ascension into heaven, Jesus could then send the promised Holy Spirit which came at Pentecost, so that Christ lives in us by His Holy Spirit. 3) In His Ascension, Jesus is present at the Lord’s Supper through His Holy Spirit so that it is more than merely a commemoration (remembrance) but also a holy communion. 4) (a) Jesus Ascending into heaven was the Father exalting Jesus as the Triumphant King, granting to Him all power, dominion and authority to rule over all things for the Church. (b) In Heaven Jesus serves as the Great High Priest, interceding for us before the Father, and (c) In heaven Jesus serves as the Chief Prophet, leading and guiding His church through His Word and Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit Whom He has appointed and sent for this specific task.
Therefore, the Ascension is not an unimportant matter! It is an essential part of the redemptive work of Jesus, bringing comfort and an expectant hope of His Return, which we celebrate in the Lord’s Supper! Pastor Alan
Sunday 30th July 2023 : Thyatira, a Corrupt Church
The church in Thyatira was a warm and growing church. There were volunteers to fill all the ministry positions, and nothing was too much to ask for. People felt welcome and accepted as the church embraced differing views in love. It would be a very popular church today!
But then Jesus severely rebukes the church in Thyatira! They had become so loving and embracing that they were accepting the teaching of a self-proclaimed prophetess called Jezebel, who had seduced the church to sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols. How did she manage that?
Consider this. If two Christian businessmen met for lunch to make a business deal, they might pray grace before the meal, and when the business agreement was reached, again pray and ask God’s blessing on the deal – as Christians our faith is active in every area of our lives. Well, Thyatira was a city known for its trade guilds (unions), and you couldn’t really do business without belonging to a Guild. However, these Guilds were somewhat religious in nature (like the Free Masons today who have a network within businesses and a form of religion with rituals). Whilst the Christian businessmen would pray and acknowledge God in their work, the Guilds would participate in a form of religious rituals that included eating food offered to idols and sexual religious rites.
Now Jezebel was teaching that it was okay to participate in these religious rites to do business. It was ‘just business’ after all, and you had to make a living. God would understand and accept this was how it was in Thyatira. This would be akin to doing a business deal over dinner, then going on to a strip club, getting drunk and indulging with prostitutes in order to ‘seal the deal’, and then saying God would understand and accept that this was simply part of ‘just doing business’. The problem was that the church at Thyatira was accepting this as okay – it’s just business. How many sinful practices have Christians indulged in under the guise of ‘it’s just business?’
The contradiction is that Jesus died on the Cross to sanctify for Himself a Bride (the Church) who is Holy and Blameless, without stain or wrinkle (Ephesians 5:27). If our Lord laid down His life to make us Holy, then He will not accept His church having an easy-going and tolerant attitude to sin that cost Him His life through suffering in Hell! Consequently, Jesus severely rebukes the church of Thyatira. He calls her to repentance and declares judgement on her if she does not repent.
We are called to be Holy as the Bride of Christ. Let us be discerning about the lures and wiles of the world, and prayerfully and intentionally strive to be holy as our Heavenly Father is Holy. Pastor Alan
Sunday 16th July 2023 : Pergamum, a Compromising Church
Pergamum was a ‘you beaut’ church, and the Lord Jesus commends them for standing firm in the faith in the face of persecution. The church of Pergamum was in a city full of idol worship and a stronghold of false religions. When confronted directly by persecution, they stood firm! But then Jesus rebukes the church because some had been influenced by these false religions and were in danger of denying their faith. After failing in a frontal attack of persecution, Satan now comes in from the side by distraction.
One of these influences was the teaching of Balaam, who advised King Balak to use the women of Moab to seduce the men of Israel and lead them into Baal worship. The women formed relations with the Israelite men, inviting them to meetings with them and making them feel very welcome (basically the Israelite men married unbelievers and were drawn into their religion). Soon the men became Baal worshippers – which resulted in the Lord sending a plague killing 24,000 Israelites.
Jesus also rebukes the church because others were following the teaching of the Nicolaitans. They taught that you are saved by grace so it didn’t matter what you did in the body, and so encouraged a life style of promiscuity, depravity and perversion.
Sound familiar? What would Jesus say to the churches today when 1. Christians encourage other Christians to get divorced, letting Satan spoil God’s wonderful gift rather than encouraging them to let Jesus redeem it (Matthew 19:4-6); or when 2. churches marry same-gender couples as an act of love and acceptance, rather than, in love, supporting them to follow God’s creation order of one man and one woman in a public love commitment for life called marriage (Genesis 2:24); or when 3. Sunday, God’s gift of rest and fellowship with Him, looks no different than the other six days of the week Exodus 20:9-11); or when 4. our thoughts, our feelings, our rights are promoted rather than intentionally imitating Jesus by being of one mind and serving the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-4)?
Do we love Jesus? Absolutely! Do we desire to follow in His blessed ways? You betcha! Then why do these corruptions enter into the church? It happens when we allow the world to influence our thinking and do not let the Word of God speak plainly anymore. And then, we re-interpret the Bible to suit our new values.
But there is always a way back. Jesus calls the church in Pergamum to repent and return to the teachings of the Bible as the Holy Spirit has given it. Otherwise, the Bible will condemn them! And it is serious – look at the Lord’s plague on Israel for worshipping Baal. However, if we repent and conquer, we will be vindicated and go into the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Let us not be seduced by the ways of the world but keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus and follow His Word, for in this is victory and glory. Pastor Alan
Sunday 9th July 2023 : Smyrna, a Persecuted Church
Open Doors writes about a new online database in China where pastors and parishioners (of all religions) have to sign in on a government “Smart Religion App”, including their name, permanent residence, phone no., government ID no., occupation, and date of birth before they can make a reservation to attend church meetings. Some Christians have chosen to meet illegally.
Lately we have been hearing about the persecution in Manipur State, Northeast India, where over 350 churches have been set ablaze, vandalised, and destroyed. Thousands of houses and properties of Christians have been burned and demolished, more than 100 Christians have been killed in the violence, and more than 30,000 Christians from the mainly Christian Kuki people, as well as Christians from the mainly Hindu Meitei people have been displaced and are taking shelter in neighbouring states or in camps, schools, colleges and community centres in the tribal land.
Persecution of the church is real throughout the world today, and the rumbling of persecution is beginning in Australia, with the increasing antagonism against Christianity and the rising of God-rejecting ideology. The question confronting us as God’s people is, “Are we ready to endure it when it comes?” The Church in Smyrna was under severe persecution, and Jesus gives words of comfort and encouragement: Jesus is Lord and all things are under His rule; persecution is the work of the evil one; it may call us to death (but it is only a physical death); it will only be for a time determined by the Lord Jesus. Also, remember the promise of the glory of heaven to come: “Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.”
We need to remember that there is a spiritual battle going on! It is a battle for which the Apostle Paul urges us to put on the whole armour of God. In 1 Peter 3, we are called not to be surprised or troubled, nor fear persecutors, but be ready to give a defence of our faith so that our behaviour in Christ may put them to shame. While the world persecutes Christians, the church of Christ is growing! This is also what happened in the Book of Acts. Persecution scattered the church throughout the Roman Empire and spread the Gospel with it. Do not fear, do not despair – Jesus, the Lord of the Church and over all creation is ruling over all for His saving purposes, and is calling us to be part of it. Pastor Alan
Sunday 2nd July 2023 : Resurrection Power!
The Apostle Paul was a man familiar with power. He knew the ‘power of political might’ as the Roman Empire controlled most of the known world. And he used that power himself as he claimed his rights as a Roman citizen when he was wrongly beaten and jailed by the Philippian magistrate.
Paul knew the ‘power of sin’ as he struggled with sin and cried out that he might be delivered from the body of death in Romans 7. Paul also knew the ‘power of death’, as he despaired to the point of death in 2 Corinthians 1. But most of all, Paul sought the ‘Power of the Resurrection’ – the Power of all Powers!
In Philippians 3, he declares that he considers all things but rubbish compared to knowing Christ and the power of His Resurrection – the power of the Resurrection that makes us able to live WITH God through the forgiveness of sins, a restored relationship with the Lord as we are given the righteousness of Christ in ‘Justification’. More than that Paul desired to know the power of the Resurrection whereby we are able to live FOR God in ‘Sanctification’, the Holy Spirit renewing our hearts and empowering us to live the new life in Christ. By the work of the Holy Spirit, we are being constantly renewed and transformed into the image of Christ as we have been set free from the dominion of sin.
In addition Paul desired to know the power of the Resurrection in ‘Glorification’, living each day with the anticipation of living IN God in the glory of heaven when Jesus returns on the clouds and brings us into the fulness of salvation in heaven and makes all things new. And that sense of anticipation drives and motivates us to stand firm and be busy with the work of God in our everyday lives (1 Corinthians 15:58).
What joy, what comfort, what strength is ours in the Power of the Resurrection! Paul puts it this way in Romans 8:18, “For I consider the sufferings of this present time not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” In Christ Crucified and Risen our past is forgiven, the present is meaningful, and the future is certain. That is the hope and comfort that is ours in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus. Pastor Alan
Sunday 25th June 2023 : First Love
The further you move from the flame the cooler you get – unless you re-kindle the flame. As a church, Ephesus started off with a huge ‘hiss and a bang’. Acts 19 shows that there was a great power encounter as the Gospel upended a whole city steeped in corruption and depravity. Even Paul’s handkerchiefs and aprons held healing power as they were carried away to the sick, healing them and exorcising evil spirits (Acts 19:11-12). What a sight that would have been to witness the bonfire burning thousands of dollars’ worth of magic arts books as a show of repentance! What power! What excitement!
Now Ephesus is forty years or so down the track – the buzz and excitement of the beginning has now passed, the next generation who was not privy to that time probably thinking that it’s merely Mum & Dad’s story. The church was very faithful in its ministries, but it had lost its spark and passion. Things had become routine, and maybe the reason for doing things the way they did in the beginning had become lost.
So, while they were a ‘you beaut’ functioning church organisationally, spiritually they had become stale. Jesus severely rebukes them for having lost their ‘first love’. It is so serious that He threatens to take away their lampstand, that is, to close them down as a church. That is a radical step to take! So why was it so serious? Because they had slipped into being religious instead of being righteous. They had lost the focus and foundation of the Gospel by investing in the programmes instead of relationships.
Sadly, it follows a typical decline of the church. 1. We become so busy with DOING the church that we forget to BE the Church. 2. Consequently we lose the focus of the Gospel and concentrate on programmes and success. 3. Which leads to compromise (if it works, we will do it). 4. Which leads further to corruption: egos (success) are now at the centre of things rather than Jesus (the Gospel). The Church is now a religious organisation of someone’s empire, with the Gospel compromised and lost.
But Jesus gives a way back! To re-kindle the flame of the Gospel through Remembering (the Gospel), Repenting (from sin) and Renewing (in faith). And Jesus promises to him who overcomes, who remains steadfast, they will eat from the tree of life, which is to enter into the Paradise of Heaven. Let us heed the call to stand firm in the Faith, for the King is Coming to bring us into the glory of heaven. Pastor Alan
Sunday 18th June 2023 : The Glorified Christ with His Church
The Apostle John was the last surviving Apostle; all the other Apostles had been martyred. John had lived through the destruction of Jerusalem that saw the city turned to rubble, some 985 towns ransacked, with some million Jews slaughtered. With Emperor Domitian raging against the Christians, the church was under severe persecution, and here sat John upon the barren rock of Patmos.
The future of the church looked very bleak, and it raised the question: What had become of the Messiah and the Kingdom? It seems that all had been lost after all. But then heaven opens up as John is given a series of visions that make up the Book of Revelation. In the first of the visions, John sees that Jesus is the exalted Son of Man, the Supreme King Who rules over all the nations. Emperor Domitian may have exiled John to Patmos in persecution, but King Jesus purposed it for John to receive these visions about heaven and the Lord’s plan of salvation.
John sees that Jesus is King! He is the All-powerful, Almighty One, ruling over the earth. Jesus has the keys to Death and Hades, and so Jesus has the POWER to be the Supreme King! Jesus as the “Son of Man” is seen standing in the middle of the seven golden lampstands; that is, He is moving and actively ministering among His churches. Jesus is busy Building, Interceding, Purifying, Commanding, Controlling, Protecting and Evangelising through His Church – then and also today!
What a tremendous comfort this brings to the church and to each one of us as Followers of Jesus, when we read about the Christians being persecuted in Manipur, India, with some 80 believers killed and 10,000 homeless as a result of persecution in Manipur state. The Hindu violence directed against Christians continues to escalate, as many hundreds are injured and now 40,000 have fled and are living as refugees. There is massive property damage to churches and homes. In light of this, what a comfort it is to know that King Jesus is walking among the seven lampstands, actively ministering to His church.
Let us be prepared to face persecution in the times to come, resting in the knowledge that Jesus is working out His plan even through the schemes of the evil one. Pastor Alan
Sunday 11th June 2023 : Parting the Curtain
The Apostle John was the last surviving apostle, an old man in exile on the small barren island of Patmos. The Roman authorities had banished him there because he wouldn’t stop preaching the Gospel. The Roman Empire has just been renamed “The Eternal Empire!”, and the Emperor “The Eternal King!” The emperor wanted to be worshipped as a god, and here was the Church bowing the knee to King Jesus! As a result, the Christian Church was going through a hard time of persecution. In the Book of Revelation we find John writing letters to the Seven Churches in Asia, the churches so dear to his heart.
John writes a message of HOPE and mighty comfort by relating the visions he has seen – that which God has passed on to him. Using symbolic language to protect the churches in persecution, John shows how God the Father is working out for His people His Plan of Salvation that will come to pass in Jesus, the Lamb of God, and that the persecution is part of the Battle of the Kingdoms: The Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. But do not fear! Jesus is the victorious King. The Battle is under His control; just stand firm in faith. “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3).
What a blessing and comfort for us as we live in an increasingly chaotic world! What is happening around us is all within the Lord’s plan, and is how He is dealing with the forces of Satan in the world and our history. All evil will be brought to account, judged and justice brought to bear. Knowing the Lord is in control, bringing salvation through Jesus the Lamb of God, we are encouraged to have ears to hear the Lord’s message and so to stand firm in the faith! Note the re-occurring theme: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches!” The Blessedness comes from hearing, and in hearing to be able to stand firm! One of the biggest issues today is that people are so wrapped up in themselves and their causes that they are not hearing! That is the clever tactic of the evil one – to distract us from the Word of God. Beloved, be comforted, stand firm in the faith even in this chaotic world. Jesus has won the battle of the Kingdoms at the Cross, and He is coming back at the end of time as determined by the Father to bring that victory in all its fullness! So, stand firm! Christ the King is Coming! Pastor Alan
Sunday 4th June 2023 : Crucified with Christ – New Life & New Lifestyle
In Romans 6:1, Paul asks a fascinating question, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” The question comes out of five chapters teaching that salvation is by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone, as God’s free gift – not to be earned by good works, not by adding to the work of Christ, not by any conditions except to believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. And so, you can imagine the readers thinking, if we are saved by grace alone as God’s free gift, then it doesn’t matter how we live – we are saved by grace after all. In fact, the more we sin, the more gracious God can be! Paul emphatically responds, “By No Means!” Why? Because your old selves have been crucified with Christ and you have been set free from the slavery of sin, through receiving a new heart along with the Holy Spirit. Like the slaves in the American Civil War who were declared by law to be “free men” and lived in that freedom, so now are you to live in your freedom. As Paul says in verse 11, “So you must reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
To ‘reckon’ is to weigh up the evidence and come to a conclusion: you have been set free from sin in Christ, so now live in that freedom. But this is more than an intellectual assent. To reckon ourselves dead to sin is putting to death the old self with its earthly passions and desires (Colossians 3:5). As Jesus gave Himself up to be crucified on the Cross for our sins, so we too are called to crucify our old sinful nature. That is a radical, intentional, committed and ongoing action! Think about the words of Jesus (in Mark 9) about cutting off your hand, plucking out your eye, amputating your foot, for it is better to enter the Kingdom of God maimed than to be thrown into Hell.
And that is a direct challenge to us, because so often we go easy on sins and let them keep going on. Instead of fleeing from sin we often come to terms with it and accept those sins as part of our everyday lives. It is so easy to take on the values of our culture where responsibility is written off as sickness. Over-drinking is a problem, same gender attraction is something you were born with, overeating is due to stress, violence is due to mental health issues. The idea is that you can’t help yourself; you aren’t responsible. But Paul calls us to crucify the old sinful nature, to radically, intentionally and committedly deal with sin in our lives, to call it what the Bible calls it, to turn away from sin and to turn to the Lord. And here is a key to sanctification; to let the Bible be your guide, live in the power of Christ through His Holy Spirit, and live in praise and thankfulness. Pastor Alan
Sunday 28th May 2023 : Kindness
Glen Campbell had a hit song many years ago, “Try a Little Kindness.” It makes one think about how narrow minded our society has become. We think of the name calling that has gone on with the debate about the Voice, and that Stan Grant feels he needed to resign as host from the Q & A television programme because of the attacks he has received for sharing his thoughts on the ABC Coronation of King Charles programme.
In Proverbs 16:24, King Solomon wisely said, “Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy to the body.” Or in Proverbs 15:1, it says, “A soft answers turns away wrath, but a harsh answer stirs up anger.” Kindness seeks the happiness and well-being of the other person. Kindness is that inner disposition created by the Holy Spirit that causes us to be sensitive to the needs of others. A kind word encourages, soothes a wounded heart, calms an angry soul, paves the way for friendships, and builds trust. It has a genuine interest and consideration for the needs of others.
Imagine what robust and positive debate we could have over issues if we spoke kindly to one another! Imagine how we could understand one another and move forward together if kindness was our attitude, if we stopped putting our expectations on others and instead sought their best interests.
In fact, that is what the Lord did to us. He treated us with infinite kindness as He reached down through time and history in Christ Jesus, loving us even when we were still His enemies! See the kindness of Jesus as He willingly gave up His life for our sins so that we might be “Children of God”. In Philippians Chapter 2, Paul urges us that our attitude is to be like that of Jesus, Who went all the way to death on the Cross for our wellbeing.
Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. It is a characteristic of the Believer, of spiritual maturity. Because of our kind words that seek to understand and honour them, do people feel safe and respected even in differences? That’s what the Lord calls us to do! Pastor Alan
Sunday 21st May 2023 : He walked with God
I wonder what stuff you’re carrying around that you’ve never owned up to. All us of have some things in our past that we’re not proud of… that we wish we could undo. Our problem is that owning up is tough. We already found that difficult as kids. Your Dad asked you why the paint was spilt in the garage and you convinced him the cat knocked it over – rather than accepting the blame yourself.
That kind of blame shifting already happened back in the Garden of Eden. Adam was asked what happened. He shifted the blame to Eve. God then asked Eve. She shifted the blame to the snake. Of course, the snake didn’t have a leg to stand on. But neither did Adam and Eve… they were just passing the buck. And we’ve been pretty good at doing that ever since. Owning up is hard.
Our society has made blame-shifting quite respectable, but it has also created some major problems. For example, many years ago a man in W.A. sued the government, some hotels and a company making poker machines. This chronic gambler had gone broke due to his gambling debts. His argument was that the government and the hotels should have warned him. And the poker machine company should have had signs up that gambling is addictive. This fellow was not prepared to accept the blame. Well, some good did come out of that: there are now warnings on poker machines. Our society encourages us to shift the blame. So, what do we do then with the stuff we carry around with us?
Israel’s King David also had some skeletons in his closet – stuff he wasn’t proud of, some of it very serious: murder and adultery. Outwardly it didn’t seem to bother him. He seemed a well-adjusted person. But David tells us in Psalm 32 that inwardly it was a different story. In the strongest terms he shows us how unconfessed guilt has a negative effect on our life.
David says: When I kept silent my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. David uses figurative language to tell us that his guilt affected him physically. His bones wasted away … there was groaning all day long. His vigour and vitality drained away like on a hot, sultry summer’s day when we have no energy. But guilt also affected David emotionally. There was depression… an absence of joy… a deep unhappiness. He says it felt like God’s hand pressing down on him. Guilt was a barrier between himself and God.
The Lord Jesus Christ wants to relieve you of your guilt. He died on the Cross so that we could be forgiven. And He encourages you to confess it and find the same relief David found in Psalm 32. Think about it. That could give you the kind of relief that would put a song on your lips. (Adapted from an article by Rev. John Westendorp) Pastor Alan
Sunday 14th May 2023 : From Despondency to Joy
Today is celebrated as Mother’s Day. For many it is an opportunity to reflect and be thankful for our mums. For others it triggers painful memories – those who wished to be married and are not; those who desire children but are not blessed with any; those who had abusive mothers or a broken relationship with their mother – and it is tempting to look at life through the pain and distress of our hurts and be paralysed from living life in the blessings the Lord has for us.
Hannah was a woman suffering deep grief and distress as a first wife who was childless, being persecuted by a second wife who was very fruitful, and this went on for years. Her grief and distress were very real and justified. So, what did Hannah do? She prayed! She went to the Lord and poured out her soul before the Lord. But notice how in her prayer for a child she also promises to dedicate him to the full-time service of the Lord. She did not pray to be relieved from her pain of childlessness, or for the scorning of Peninnah, but she prayed for a child for the service of the Lord. She realised that children are God’s gift to us and not our right. Even through her great distress and despondency, provoked by years of abuse and disappointment, Hannah still puts God first in her desires.
Eli the priest, seeing her praying wordlessly, rebukes her for being drunk, but Hannah explains that she was praying. Eli then blesses her, and Hannah goes home with joy. She is no longer sad, because the Lord has heard her prayer. She had cast her cares upon the Lord and now rested in His providence. She had accepted that if the Lord did not grant her a child that it was His will for her life, and that is something we need to take note of. We can become so obsessed with our pain and distress that we become paralysed to seeing all of life through our pain. But when we accept the providence of God and start to look at Him instead of our pain, we find joy in our grief and are able to move on to be useful servants of the Lord.
The Lord remembered Hannah and opened her womb, so Samuel was born. Hannah kept Samuel at home until he was weaned, teaching him the things of God and so equipping him to stand firm in a corrupt temple (just like Jochebed teaching Moses his Hebrew and Covenantal Heritage so he could stand firm in the Palace). Hannah kept her promise and presented Samuel to the Temple, as painful as that may have been. She was a woman of Faith! May we too be people of faith, looking to the Lord in our pain and distress, and teaching our children the inheritance of faith – the greatest gift we can give them! Pastor Alan
Sunday 7th May 2023 : Where O Death is Thy Sting?
Death is the ‘certain appointment’ that we will all have to face (unless Jesus Returns on the Clouds in our lifetime). It is ugly and grotesque as it wrenches the soul from the body. Death is ugly and grotesque because it is the ultimate curse of sin. The Lord God told Adam not to eat of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge because the day you eat from it, you will surely die! Paul tells us in Romans that the wages of sin is death!
But did you realise that death is not only the end of life – the removal of a physical life from the earth? The Curse of the Fall into sin also means that each day we are in a living death – suffering and sickness, grief and sorrow, heartaches and disappointments, violence and abuse, brokenness and corruption, misunderstanding and tensions. These are all forms of death. Estrangement from God, from one another, and even from creation are all part of the Curse that God pronounced on Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Yet, death for the Believer has been transformed from being God’s (restrained) punishment to a means of bringing His grace. Likewise the Cross, which was sinful man’s highest expression of hate and rebellion against God, the Lord transformed into the highest expression of His Love and Mercy. So also, with death; physical death has been transformed into a doorway to the glory of heaven, and death and suffering in all its forms has been transformed into the means by which the Lord brings His grace and mercy to bear. As Paul writes in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…” Through our hurts and pains, trials and temptations, the Lord brings His grace, encouraging His people, and growing them into strong Christian characters. As Paul writes in Romans 5, “Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand, and we rejoice in the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.”
In Jesus, death has lost its Sting! In His victory over death and the grave, and paying the price for our sin, death is no longer a punishment of God but has been transformed as a means to bring His grace. What a comfort in a crazy, corrupted and depraved world! Let us not only rejoice in God’s grace but share the good news to a dark, lost and dying world! Pastor Alan
Sunday 30th April 2023 : No Greater Love Than This ….
Last Tuesday, as a nation we commemorated ANZAC Day. We remembered the soldiers who died in the Gallipoli Campaign for their Sacrifice, Loyalty, Bravery and Tenacity as some 8,000 soldiers died, giving up their lives for King and Country. In total, some 80,000 Australian Soldiers died in the First World War. We also remember the medical teams who rescued and cared for the wounded, and the women who kept the wheels of the war turning by keeping home fires burning and providing the supply chain of food and encouragement.
But why do we celebrate war? Out of gratitude and deep thankfulness that we may enjoy this Blessed Country of Opportunity – Australia. This is a country that many migrants have come to to seek and find a better life in a country of freedom. Men and women laid down their lives so we might live in freedom.
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” That has been used often in previous days as a catch-cry to enlist people into the armed forces. But it first of all refers to Jesus who has so loved us that He died on the cross for our sins – for us who were his enemies in our sin and rebellion. Jesus, through God, gave up the glory of heaven to take the form of a servant, being obedient to death, even death on a cross. (cf. Philippians 2:6-8)
But it is also an expression of love that each one of us, as followers of Jesus, is called to do! In John 15 Jesus commands that we are to love one another as He has loved us, that we are to die to ourselves that others may live. In love, we have relationships with them. The “proof” of being a disciple of Jesus is evidenced in our love for one another. AGAPE love is a self-sacrificial love that seeks to meet the needs the other person no matter the cost to ourselves. It is self-denying and other orientated. This means that the church will be a very safe and welcoming place, a place where everyone is honoured and respected as a Brother and Sister in Christ, where differences are solved by seeking to uphold the other person and making them feel safe and respected.
Jesus calls us to bear the fruit of love and to be like Christ. He equips us with His Love, Word and Holy Spirit. Our soldiers gave up their lives so that we might live in freedom. Are you giving up your life so others might live in the freedom of the love of Christ? Pastor Alan
Sunday 23rd April 2023 : Body Life and the Use of Gifts
A number of years ago, there was a movement through the churches of “Knowing your Gifts”. This was a course you did to explore your gifts, with the encouragement to use them in the church. The good thing was that Jesus gave gifts to the church to build up His Body as each part (person) used their God-given gifts. The down side was that people tended to become a little haughty about what works of service they would or would not do, according to their interpretation of the gifts they possessed.
It is interesting that in Romans 12:3-8, the Apostle Paul introduces gifts with a warning: ‘Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought’. It is God Who gives gifts and ordains their use within the Body-life of the church through His ‘calling’ of people to works of service. Therefore, it is the church who recognises gifts and calls people to works of service, and not people deciding individually what gifts they have decided to have and use. How often haven’t we found that the things we thought we were good at we weren’t, and what we thought we were not good at we were. And how often haven’t we used the excuse that we are not good at something to avoid doing works of service in the church.
Paul teaches us, 1. That we need to start with a Right Attitude, a humble heart willing to serve the Lord wherever He calls; 2. To have a Right Relationship, knowing that we are part of the body of Christ and each part needs to do its bit in service to Christ Jesus for a healthy Body; and 3. To be active in the Right Service as the Lord calls us – to love Jesus is to live for Jesus; to live for Jesus is to use our gifts as part of His Body – the LOCAL Church – as each member with their own unique place by God’s calling use the gifts He has assigned.
You may say, ‘But I am old and frail and weary, what can I do?’ You can have a ministry of prayer, holding the needs of the people before the Lord and giving thanks for blessings received. You can be committed to attending the church services as your health allows – never underestimate the encouragement of your presence. And you can provide words of wisdom and encouragement from the many years of experience of faith the Lord has gifted you that we would love to hear and draw upon. Ultimately, it is to be open to what the Lord calls you to do – even if it is just to ‘be’ in Him. Pastor Alan
Sunday 9th April 2023 : Why are you weeping?
Mary Magdalene was in turmoil. Jesus, her Rabbi, her Teacher, her Lord, was not a hardened criminal, and yet He had been crucified! She had put her hopes and dreams in Jesus; He had the answers to all their struggles. Jesus had given them hope and vision, and taught with such clarity and authority. But now… He is gone, dead and in the Tomb. All that is left are her memories and His body in the tomb. And so Mary’s mind now focuses on Jesus’ Body. At least she can attend to that as the Jewish custom of the day prescribed – her one last act of love and devotion.
There she was that Sunday morning hurrying to the tomb. As she arrived, she saw that the tomb had already been opened! Someone must have raided the tomb! Confused and angry she ran back to tell Peter & John. They ran to the tomb and also saw that it was empty. The strips of linen were still lying there because Jesus had just passed through the material. Mary was overcome with grief and further distress because Jesus’ body is gone! Then Mary saw two angels sitting there. Their presence does not penetrate Mary’s consciousness. ‘Woman, Why are you crying?’ they ask her. How can you be grieving this most glorious day? Don’t you understand, the Body of Jesus is not here because He has Risen! This is what earth and heaven have been waiting for! Sin and Death have been defeated! The curse of sin is broken. That’s why we are here.
But Mary cannot think past attending to Jesus’ Body. Why was she crying? Because they have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they have laid Him! But you know, if Mary had received Jesus’ body at that moment as she so dearly desired, it would mean Jesus had not risen from the dead, and we would have lost all our hope. We would be still lost in our sin and shame. However, Jesus gently called to Mary. There is a living Jesus standing in front of her, yet she still asks for His dead body. She wants it so she can drag it back to the tomb. Jesus steps up to Mary and gently brings her back to her senses. Mary hugs Jesus so tightly that it seems like she would never let Him go again! Now Jesus rebukes her! Don’t go on clinging to Me! I am not just alive again like Lazarus; this is My Resurrected Body; I am alive for ever and ever. Sin has been paid for and hell has been overcome. And so, there is a new (redemptive) relationship – go and tell My ‘BROTHERS’ – whereas before they were only His friends. What Jesus had achieved by His Resurrection had an enormous impact for the entire universe. As He has Risen, so shall the myriads of those who believe. As Jesus has overcome death and the curse of sin so shall the entire creation when God restores all things when Jesus comes again. Despite our failures as human beings, God in His grace has brought forgiveness and eternal life. In Hs Resurrection, Jesus brings forgiveness and hope to a world that is devastated by the misery of sin, where hunger and disease kill the poor, and stress and obesity kill the rich, where relationships are torn at and broken daily, where the media record society’s hatred and stupidity every day, where death is the fear of us all. All this is answered with the Good News, “Jesus is Alive and with us today!” All you need to do is believe and see the Truth as Mary did. Pastor Alan
Sunday 2nd April 2023 : Christ the King – from Exaltation to Humiliation
In many things the world runs on hate. Individuals, social groups and even nations openly express and show their hate for one another. People hate one another out of love for money, greed, and covetousness, with a lust for personal ambition, power, envy or revenge. The root of hatred is enmity against God, for hatred of one another is an expression of hatred against God. And it is this hatred that we see at the Cross of Christ where we see Jesus, Who is the Perfect Neighbour because no sin was found in Him, no guile came from His mouth, and Who always cared for others interest above His own. This hatred was expressed in condemning Jesus to death. After Pilate delivered Jesus over to be crucified, Jesus was whipped and beaten with rods, scorned and mocked, blindfolded and beaten about the head, spat upon and abused, and finally was hung upon the Cross to die that cruel death as a hardened criminal, reckoned among the transgressors.
Jesus was hated, scorned and rejected because He told the Truth – declaring that He is the Messiah-King, the Son of David. And it had to be this way! Isaiah (53:10) said, “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him; He has put Him to grief.” Jesus had to be declared innocent and yet treated as guilty so He could stand in our place, to be the substitute and pay the penalty for our sins. In Jesus Crucified, the Father transforms man’s highest expression of hate and rebellion into His highest expression of Love and Grace. It is in the Cross that we have a new heart to live a new life, being set free from the hate and corruption that consumes and destroys sinful mankind. In Christ, we are able to love as God the Father has loved us, able to put the interests of others before our own, and able to bring reconciliation and renewed relationships.
As we celebrate the Passion of Christ in this period of Lent, as we eat of the bread and drink from the cup, let us remember what suffering and agony our sins brought upon Jesus. ‘It was our sins that crucified Thee!’ Let us contemplate, remember and appreciate that His humiliation was for our salvation, and then give Him all the praise and thanks ‘that Jesus would do this for me!’, me, as a wretched sinner, and go out with thankfulness and joy, living the new life that is ours in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Pastor Alan
Sunday 26th March 2023 : I am Barabbas
Life is made up of choices. You choose whether to remain a victim or be a survivor; whether to be positive or negative; to be content or to be bitter; to be a giver or a taker; to fight on or simply give up; to trust in God our Heavenly Father or to be self-absorbed. At the Passover in Jerusalem in Mark 15, Pilate, the Roman Governor, gave the Jews a choice: Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews OR Barabbas?” Barabbas was a notorious criminal; convicted as robber, murderer and insurrectionist. He was waiting to be crucified. Jesus of Nazareth had been travelling around the country preaching the Kingdom of Heaven, performing many miracles and declaring Himself to be the Son of God – the Messiah. Now before Pilate, who is offering the people the choice, both stand for the charge of insurrection (i.e. leading a rebellion against the Roman Empire) and both represented hope to the people. Barabbas was fighting for freedom now, in an earthly kingdom – throwing off the Roman yoke by taking up arms. Jesus was fighting for freedom in the spiritual realm of the heavenly Kingdom. In this, Jesus was a big disappointment to the Jewish people, whose expectation of the Messiah was the political return of the kingdom of David. Now feeding off this disappointment were the Religious Leaders. They were obsessively determined to have Jesus killed so they could continue to rule the people for their own cause (Pilate perceived that it was out of envy that the Chief Priests had delivered Jesus up). They whipped the crowd into a frenzy, “Give us Barabbas!” Consequently, Jesus, Who had been declared innocent of guilt three times, nevertheless was given over to death on the Cross.
But behind this gross miscarriage of justice, was the amazing grace of God! He had determined that it had to be this way, so that Jesus as the unblemished Lamb of God could be offered as the atoning sacrifice for our sins – Publicly and Judicially declared Innocent and yet found guilty, and crucified. Yet that was God’s way of bringing salvation to His people. As we celebrate this season of Lent, considering the suffering of Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we do so with a sense of mortification that it was my sins that nailed Jesus to the Tree, my voice that cried out in the crowd that day – Yes Lord, I crucified Thee! And yet, also with a sense of amazement and joy that Jesus died, obediently, willingly and lovingly for me! This was God’s plan of salvation so He could reconcile sinners to Himself. Such Love, such sacrifice. Pastor Alan
Sunday 19th March 2023 : The Two Rocks
Peter was a fiercely loving and loyal Disciple of Jesus. He was a great man! The first Disciple called by Jesus; One of the three inner-circle Disciples; leader of the Twelve Disciples; got out of the boat to Jesus in the storm; confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God; was one of three Disciples with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration; stood up for Jesus in the Garden and cut off the ear of Malchus. His credentials are on par with the Apostle Paul! And to top it off, Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter as the Rock upon which the church would be built.
But there was a fundamental problem: Peter’s ego and his vision of the Kingdom. In the Upper Room before the arrest of Jesus, the Disciples had been arguing who of them was the greatest. When Jesus warned Peter that Peter would deny Him, Peter boldly asserted that he definitely, without a doubt, would remain loyal even unto death itself! Also, his vision of the Kingdom was one of an earthly political kingdom – that is why he pulled the sword in the Garden when Jesus was arrested, eager to start the revolution!
How could this bold, brash Peter be the ‘rock’ on which to build the church? Well, he couldn’t. Therefore he had to be broken in order to become the Rock upon which the church is built. The Lord broke Peter through his denials, broke the boldness and brashness of his ego and wrong vision of the Kingdom, and restored him as the Rock – the one who would preach that first Pentecost sermon which gave birth to the New Testament Church.
So, what can we learn from Peter?
One thing is that sometimes God has to break us so He can use us in His Kingdom.
Another is that we need to be Kingdom expanding and not empire building, by being humble and getting our egos out of the way!
Another is that we need to live in the strength of the Lord and not in fear. When we deny Jesus, putting a break in the relationship, we cut off the strength of His Spirit.
Lastly, when we do fall, there is always forgiveness and restoration upon true repentance. Peter wept bitterly in repentance and we see him restored by Jesus at the Lake of Galilee and go to preach at Pentecost. Pastor Alan
Sunday 12th March 2023 : Are You the Christ?
One of the most frustrating and humiliating experiences is being accused of a wrong you know you did not do, or to be called a liar when you are telling the truth, or when someone is out to get you and will use anything and any argument to make you look bad. Look at what our politicians do to one another, or how the media seems to make stories by innuendo. Don’t worry about the truth, just as long as you can score the point for your advantage.
Picture Jesus, arrested by stealth in the middle of the night, tried by a High Priest who is no longer in Office, faced by the whole council of the Sanhedrin while it is still in the night (thus an illegal session of court), bribed witnesses who could not get their story straight, having His words twisted to say what He never said, and then being asked to defend Himself. But Jesus remained silent. How can you make a defence when there is no charge? And then when the whole kangaroo court was on the verge of collapse, Caiaphas asks the ultimate question, “Are You the Christ?”, to which Jesus declared that He was indeed the Christ, the Son of God – which gave Caiaphas a charge he could use, the charge of Blasphemy. It is a bit of an irony that Jesus was charged and sentenced to the penalty of death for telling the Truth! However, it was part of God’s plan of salvation that, though innocent, Jesus should die on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sins.
In the rejection of Jesus through the ‘court’, the Religious Leaders had formally rejected Jesus as the Lord’s Messiah. As teachers of the Scriptures they should have recognised Him by the signs and fulfilment of prophecy. We see how hard hearts bring such utter blindness, along with rage and envy, as they defend their own religious empire, and this resulted in God’s Judgement on Israel with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD. They could not simply crucify the Christ and not be judged for it.
And that is a challenge to you and me, and all people. As sinners, we also crucified the Christ. Jesus declares that He is the Lord’s Messiah. Will you be like the religious leaders and deny Him as Lord and Saviour of your life, resulting in His crucifixion bringing the Lord’s Judgement on you also? Or do confess Jesus as the Christ, your Lord and Saviour, with His crucifixion bringing the Lord’s salvation? Pastor Alan
Sunday 5th March 2023 : The Curse of the Cross
The cross is a very popular and accepted symbol today. You see them everywhere; in churches, on churches, on pamphlets and books, even as jewellery! In fact, we even sing, “In the Cross of Christ I glory”! The Cross is the symbol of the Christian faith.
But you know, in the times of the New Testament, people would have been absolutely horrified and offended! To the Jews, the Cross was the sign of someone being utterly cursed by God. And to the Gentiles, crucifixion was their harshest and most cruel way of putting someone to death, reserved for criminals and slaves. It was against the law for Roman citizens to be crucified. Perhaps their equivalent of the cross today would be if we hung a hangman’s noose around our neck. Can you imagine singing, “In the Hangman’s noose I glory”?
Yet to us, as Christians, the Cross is a sign of great joy! It is a sign that Jesus has won the victory over the curse of sin and death. God had said to Adam & Eve, “The day you eat of the forbidden fruit in rebellion against Me, that day you will surely die!” Adam & Eve’s rejection of God’s rule as Creator brought death into the world. Instead of being under God’s favour in fellowship, they were now under God’s judgement in broken fellowship. The curse of sin and death now held creation and mankind in its grip. How can this curse be lifted and removed? Well, immediately the Lord God promised a Saviour Who would remove the curse of sin. And Jesus did so by the way of the Cross.
Why the Cross? Because Deuteronomy 21:22-23 teaches that if a man is guilty of a Capital Offence, he is to be put to death and his body hung on a tree for everyone to see as being under the curse of God. Jesus had not just to die, but also to suffer death in its harshest, cruellest, most humiliating form, and publicly, so that He would win victory over it and pay the penalty for our sins. In this way He shouldered the curse that lay on me – a sinner. The Cross is at the heart of the Gospel as the power of God unto salvation as it removes the curse of sin and restores us through forgiveness to fellowship with the God the Father. That is worth glorying in! Pastor Alan
Sunday 25th December 2022 : Peace on Earth!
At the birth of Jesus, the night sky was ablaze with a brilliant light with a ginormous choir of angels singing. What an amazing, magnificent sight that would have been – more impressive than the best performed Handel’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus’!
There they were, singing their hearts out, in perfect harmony in a spectacular display. What was it that they were so excited about? It must have been something very significant to have all those angels singing in the night sky. The angels, with great joy and praise, were proclaiming the birth of Jesus as they were singing, “Glory to God in the highest…” at what was the greatest event of all time – God visiting sinful mankind through the Saviour. There was never a happier announcement ever made: “I bring you good tidings of great joy for all the people. Today in the Town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord!” The angels have been waiting to hear this Good News! We see this in Luke 15:7, where Jesus tells us that there will be great rejoicing in heaven over the sinner who repents. The glory and grace of God at Christmas is that He, the Almighty Creator God, has reached down through time and history, through His Son, Jesus, to a rebellious, sinful human race to restore the relationship with Him. God’s glory is seen in the coming of Jesus where, on the one hand we see His anger, judgement and perfections in the judgement of those who reject Jesus as Saviour, and on the other hand, God’s abounding love, infinite mercy and amazing compassion to those who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour – God Himself, dealing with our sin and shame in His Beloved Son, Amazing Grace, worthy of all praise and joy and adoration.
We see the angels again in Revelation 5, thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand, a glorious celestial choir singing the “New Song” of salvation with all its verses at the end of time when, in the glory of heaven, Jesus receives all glory and honour and praise as the Lamb in the completed work of Salvation. What an absolutely wonderful sight that will be! May our celebration of Christmas be joined with the praise of the angels, singing our hearts out with joy and praise for God’s glory revealed in Christ, born in a stable in Bethlehem to die on the Cross at Golgotha – Jesus our Lord and Saviour. Pastor Alan
Sunday 18th December 2022 : Who is the Father of Christmas?
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I muse about who is the father of Christmas? As Christians we would immediately respond, God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ Who was born at Bethlehem; which is what Christmas celebrations are all about – the ‘reason for the season’, right?
So how come so many Christian Christmas celebrations have Santa in them? I remember serving at a combined churches Christmas community dinner and the MC giving a ‘Jesus – the reason for the season’ talk and right smack in the middle of it, “Santa” arrived decked in his red suit and a sack of gifts singing, “Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas everyone!” The MC made a huge fuss about Santa arriving – and the message of Jesus was pushed aside for Santa. We talk about doing “Secret Santa” gifts, but if Christmas gifts are about reflecting God’s greatest gift in Christ born at Bethlehem, why do we attribute our gift giving to Santa? Think about it: there is Santa, a white bearded benevolent grandfather figure, sitting in his throne, having children on his lap listening to their requests, working the magic of Christmas, with his workshop in the North Pole with little elves busy packing Christmas gifts, speeding around the world on his sleigh pulled by reindeers to dispense his goodwill and joy.
Surely it seems that Santa is in competition with Jesus for Christmas! In America even the language is changing from the greeting of ‘Merry Christmas’ to ‘Happy Holidays’! In fact (in America) the public display of nativity scenes has been legally challenged and are only allowed if they are not displayed as a religious symbol but as ceremonial deism – that is, as long as we all know it is just pretend. Here we have the battle of the kingdoms (the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan) being fought over the celebration of Christmas! In Australia, the nativity is still traditionally celebrated, but more as one of the many alternative ways of celebrating Christmas. Santa and the Christ-child are set alongside one another – just look at the light displays around the neighbourhood. But Jesus born at Bethlehem is not merely one alternative to celebrating Christmas – Jesus is Lord and King!
The question is, ‘who do you celebrate as the Father of Christmas?’ Pastor Alan
Sunday 11th December 2022 : Yet I will rejoice!
Sometimes, in a moment of cynicism, I ponder about what is the point of celebrating Christmas? It’s all a bit of a romantic ‘virtual reality’ fix, isn’t it? We eat too much, drink too much, spend too much, revel in the fantasy of Santa Claus, spread season’s greetings of good cheer (which we don’t really mean, but it is the season).
But when I stop looking at Christmas through the world around me, and look at God, then a whole new way of thinking overwhelms me.
Christmas is about the Glory and Grace of God. Christmas, Jesus God Incarnate, born as a baby at Bethlehem is a real, live, historic event! Jesus was born at a particular time, in a particular place, in a particular way to fulfil the prophecies God had given all those hundreds of years ago. It shows us that God is the Controller of History! And that is the crunch.
Christmas is not a romantic virtual reality fix at all; it is God controlling history to bring His salvation. Christmas reveals the glory and grace of God!
Now those Christmas hymns are no longer merely tradition that makes me feel good in their familiarity, but a glorious expression of praise of the wondrous saving acts of God, worked out throughout the history of mankind; beginning at Genesis right through until the end of time when Jesus Returns.
Christmas reveals God’s faithfulness throughout all of History. The whole Old Testament is about the coming of Jesus, the Lord’s Messiah, our Lord and Saviour, born in a stable in order to die on the Cross. And this brings great comfort and joy. We can trust that this is the real McCoy and not just one of the many ways to celebrate Christmas (Santa Claus; Great Aussie BBQ, Parties, etc.) because God is the Controller over history, and through history brought about His salvation. I no longer have a cynical view of Christmas but take great joy in the God of my Salvation!
How will you celebrate Christmas this year? Pastor Alan
Sunday 20th November 2022 : The Abomination of Desolation
Jesus had just told the Disciples something shocking! As His Disciples looked at the beautiful structure of the glorious Temple of Jerusalem that had been (and was still being built) by Herod the Great, Jesus told them that a time was coming that not one stone would be left on top of another; that is, it would be completely and totally destroyed. The Disciples were stunned; and they asked Jesus when this would happen, and what would be the signs.
In Verses 3-13, Jesus predicts what will happen before the Destruction of the Temple: False teaching, persecution and rejection. As the Gospel goes out to all nations there will be opposition. Therefore, do not be alarmed but be on your guard. Do not be anxious but rely on the Holy Spirit Who will empower you. Endure to the end!
In Verses 14-24, Jesus tells of how the destruction of the Temple will come about. It will be a further fulfilment of the Daniel prophecy of enemy forces coming in and destroying the Temple. At that time, you must flee to the mountains as the armies will not spare the people. False prophets and ‘christs’ will arise with their predictions and false teachings. They will be very convincing even to the point of leading believers astray. Therefore, be on your guard! I am telling you these things beforehand so that you can be prepared and endure.
Later in the New Testament, we have similar warnings from Jesus in the letters to the Churches in the Book of Revelation. The Churches are warned about false teachers, losing their first love, tolerating sin in the church, remaining unrepentant, being lukewarm in the faith, and are called to conquer and stand firm. Otherwise, Jesus will remove the lampstand from their church. As God withdrew His presence from the Temple, so also He will withdraw His presence from unfaithful churches. What are we to do? Jesus calls us to be on guard, not to be deceived by false teaching, and to conquer and endure by keeping our eyes on Jesus! Pastor Alan
Sunday 13th November 2022 : Living faithfully in a Time of Waiting
The Disciples were in for a big shock! After the confrontation with the Religious Leaders in the Temple ending with Jesus pronouncing seven curses on the Leaders, Jesus broke into a lament over Jerusalem, how He often wanted to gather them together a hen gathers her chicks under her wings and declares that their house would be left desolate. The Disciples pondered over these words and as they came out of the Temple and saw the magnificence, majesty and splendour of it with its huge stones and gold overlay. They felt overwhelmed by this symbol of God’s presence and they being His Covenant people.
In response, Jesus declares that there will not be one stone standing on top of one another that will not be thrown down. See this Temple, it will be completely razed to the ground as if it never existed. Well, thought the Disciples, that would mean the end of God’s relationship with His people! That must also mean the end of the ages when the Son of Man returns to bring in His Kingdom (Daniel 7). So, they asked when this will happen and what signs to look for. Then Jesus starts to say strange things, “See that no one leads you astray…” Actually, He prepares them for the time that He will not be with them (after Pentecost) as they will continue His work on earth, for the Gospel must be proclaimed to all the nations. There will be false teachers who will claim to be the Messiah and lead many astray. There will be wars and rumours of wars, nation rising against nation, earthquakes and famines. These are not signs of the end times, but the beginning of the new Gospel era which will see you persecuted and beaten by your own people. Even families will turn on families as the Gospel goes out into the world. But do not be anxious and
fear, take courage, for the Holy Spirit will be with you and equip you what you to say and to stand firm.
Mark 13 is about Jesus preparing His Disciples for Gospel ministry when He has ascended to heaven to sit at the Right Hand of the Father. Much has been made about signs and predicting the end times but it firstly about preparing and encouraging His Disciples for their task of Gospel ministry without Jesus among them. The Book of Acts records the Gospel going out into the world of which we today are part of. As we see the `signs’ let not be anxious or afraid, but strong and courageous as the Church we continue the Gospel work of the Disciples. Pastor Alan
Sunday 6th November 2022 : Suffered under Pontius Pilate
Have you ever wondered why Pontius Pilate is mentioned in the Apostles’ Creed? Pontius Pilate was not even a nice man. He came from Spain, found himself in Rome and managed to marry the daughter of Emperor Augustus. Pilate asked for the job of Governor over Judea, but he always got himself into trouble. He could not avoid political disaster, and here he was a frightened and egotistical man, worried about his political future, judging the trial of Jesus! So why was he mentioned in the Apostles’ Creed?
1). The mentioning of Pilate’s name was to date the event of Christ’s trial and crucifixion. Back in the days of Jesus, and earlier, events were dated by the rule of the King or Governor at the time (cf. Luke 3:1-2, introducing the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist). Pilate was a real historical person and so the Crucifixion of Jesus was a real historical event. Christianity is based on real historical events; it is not a “made-up” religion. Jesus was a real live person. Therefore, God’s promises are also real and trustworthy.
2). Pilate’s name is also mentioned because the trial and crucifixion had to be a whole-world universal event. Pilate as a Roman Governor represented the human court of Justice. As such he represented the world. The Jews rejected Jesus and sought his crucifixion and Pilate, although declaring Jesus as innocent, still delivered Jesus over to death. Both the Jews and Gentiles rejected Jesus, considering Him worthy of death. Jesus had to die on the Cross as the universal symbol of God’s salvation. For God so loved the ‘world’ – His salvation is for all people.
3). Pilate’s name is mentioned because as the Roman Judge representing the human court of justice, he declared to all the world that Jesus was innocent of any charge, thereby confirming that Jesus died as our perfect substitute – the Innocent One paying for the guilty, so that we, the guilty, may be declared innocent before the Father. See what the marvellous grace of God can do, that through the weakness, sinfulness and selfishness of all involved He works out our Salvation! Pastor Alan
Sunday 30th October 2022 : Jesus – made to be sin for us
The Gospel is about being saved. But saved from what? From the depths of hell? From the terrible things in life? We can easily form the picture of a benevolent loving God who saves us from the burning fire of hell, who picks us up, brushes us off and gives us a new crack at life.
But the Gospel of salvation is about saving us from God! That’s right, we need saving from God Himself. You see, the Lord God is a Holy God Who hates sin and demands perfection. Hell is the place created by God for those who come under His Just Condemnation for breaking of the Law. God is Holy and Perfect, and His Law shows us that Holiness and Perfection, and breaking the Law of God requires punishment. Justice must be served – we know that by how we get indignant when a criminal gets let off by the court. ‘He should be punished,’ we cry. ‘That is justice.’
God is Holy and Perfect, and demands justice on sin. If the Lord glosses over sin or hides it under the carpet, He denies his own Holiness and Perfection. The Gospel is this: that in His love the Lord arranges His Justice to be satisfied so He can be merciful. He did this by sending His Only, Innocent Son to die on the Cross as our substitute, to pay the penalty for our sins. The Gospel is more than just feeling good and special. It is more than what Jesus can do in your life if you choose to follow Him. You know how it goes: ‘Come, follow Jesus and He will do all these marvellous things in your life. He saved my broken marriage; He set me on the straight path; He is my Friend in times of need; He got me off drugs and into a job.’ Jesus is all those things, but He is much more. It is not just what Jesus can do IN your life, but what He does FOR your life! Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, in His Death on the Cross and Resurrection from the Dead, satisfies the Justice of the Holy and Perfect God so that the Father can be Merciful, and in Grace not only forgive our sins, but also have a relationship with each of us as His Beloved children! That is the Gospel! Wretched, sinful man is reconciled to a Holy and Perfect God through Jesus Christ by having faith in Him as Lord and Saviour, to which we respond with thankful praise and worship with every part of our lives. Pastor Alan
Sunday 23rd October 2022 : What is your motive?
Much is made of the story of the Poor Widow’s two small copper coins she placed in the offering box in the Temple. Many a preacher has used to teach about how we need to give sacrificially. But the Poor Widow was the victim of the Religious System that “…devoured the houses of widows…” (Mark 12:40). She was destitute, with utterly nothing to her name, because the Scribes (who gave her legal advice and helped her manage her affairs) had swindled her out of her estate. They used Religion to serve themselves and further their own causes; no wonder Jesus was so angry when He cleansed the Temple, “You have made the Lord’s House into a den of robbers!”
It is so easy for us to point the finger at the corruption and evil of the Religious Leaders but, in fact, we battle with the same sinful tendencies of being self-serving and using religion to further our own causes. How can we test our motives in religion? One author has written a ‘Hypocrisy Test’ (adapted) based on the words of Jesus in Mark 12:38-40:
- How obsessed are you with your appearance?
- Does what other people think determine your actions?
- Do you care too much about your status?
- Do you find your self-worth in your position?
- Do you fake your spirituality?
- Is your private life different from your public life?
- Do you really care for the vulnerable?
- Taking people where they are at and helping them without judgment?
- Is your heart full of the things of God?
- or full of self?
The Poor Widow, even in her destitution gave her offerings in faith and trust in the Lord’s promise to hear the cry of the Orphan and the Widow. Her trust points us to Jesus Who offered Himself completely, even to Death on the Cross, to meet our poverty in sin that we might be rich in salvation.
There is always hope in a dark world of sin and corruption – the hope of the Gospel. Pastor Alan
Sunday 9th October 2022 : The Final Invitation
I can remember hearing on Christian radio little sound-bytes how if you are down and troubled, Jesus can fix your problems. Jesus is the answer to all your problems. While that is true, I wonder how often we unwittingly turn Jesus into a magic genie to meet our perceived needs, and that we limit Jesus to being the “Fixer” of all our problems.
The Religious Leaders had that problem. They believed that the Messiah was the ‘Son of David’ who would come, restore the Kingdom of David, and make Jerusalem the political centre of the world. He would get rid of the Roman oppression and keep the Gentiles in their place. They had too narrow a view of Jesus, the Lord’s Messiah.
But the Christ, the Lord’s Messiah, is much, much, more than a ‘Fixer’ of our problems. Here in Mark 12:35-37, Jesus teaches that the Christ is certainly the ‘Son of David’ in His humanity, but He is also the ‘Son of God’ in His divinity. Both God and man.
If we make too little of Christ’s humanity, then we forfeit the comfort of His identifying with our suffering. Jesus knows, He has lived our human life on earth. He can sympathize with our weaknesses and provide grace in our time of need. We forfeit the comfort of knowing that Jesus is sitting at the Right Hand of the Father in our glorified humanity and so we need not fear death – He has gone on to prepare a place for us!
If we make too little of His Divinity, that He is God, then we make Christianity into merely another religion, a code of ethics and morals, something only for this life. But the Christ brought in a new Kingdom when He defeated sin, death and Satan on the Cross. As Lord, He sits at the Right Hand of the Father with all power, dominion and authority ruling over all things for the church. He has brought in a new humanity and will bring in a new heaven and earth. Salvation is in terms of eternity. With Jesus as King, we do not have to be anxious about the chaos and corruption of the world around us because Jesus has it under control and working it out for His saving purposes. Jesus is also the Lord of our lives calling us to live for Him and in Him.
What’s your view of the Christ? Pastor Alan
Sunday 2nd October 2022 : The Suffering of Jesus
We are all familiar with suffering. Just look around the world and turn on the news and we see suffering all around us. From children starving from hunger to wars between countries. Every part of our lives has been corrupted by sin, and the wages of sin is death; a living death in suffering through to death of the body. If everyone suffers, what significance is the suffering of Jesus?
Firstly, Jesus was innocent of sin and so not liable to suffer as the consequence of sin. Suffering was not His lot!
Secondly, Jesus chose to suffer the consequences of sin on our behalf as the Saviour. As the Angel said to Joseph, “You shall call Him Jesus because He will save His people from their sins.” Jesus, although God, left the glory of heaven to take on the corrupted human nature to die on the Cross to pay the penalty and suffer the consequences of your sin and mine! Jesus was born in Bethlehem to die on the Cross at Golgotha. And He suffered the humiliation of sin for His whole life.
Now, what does that mean for us in our suffering? It means that we will never suffer for our sins. God is not angry at us because He has poured out His anger at our sin on Jesus at the Cross. We are no longer under the Lord’s anger and judgement but now, in Jesus as our Saviour, are under His Love and Care. We still have to suffer as we live in a broken and sinful world but our suffering has been transformed from an expression of God’s anger and Judgement to the means of receiving His Love and Grace. It is like death. The wages of sin is death. Death is an expression of God’s anger and judgement. As He said to Adam, “The day you eat of the forbidden fruit you will surely die! In sin, Death is a separation from the love of God. But when Jesus died on the Cross and rose again from the dead, He transformed death into the doorway to heaven – a means of entering into the glory of the Father. So also, for suffering. As a child of God through faith in Jesus, suffering has been transformed as a means of receiving God’s love and grace and so drawing us closer to Him. We live in a broken and corrupted world by sin, but we also live in the transformed life by the Gospel, with Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. Therefore, let us not complain in our suffering, but look to see how the Father will bring His Love and Grace to bear, for He has promised to turn all things for our good! Pastor Alan
Sunday 25th September 2022 : Are you blessed?
History gives us identity. In Ephesians 2, Paul says “And you were dead in trespasses and sins in which you once walked… But God… made us alive in Christ.” In Titus 3, Paul writes, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray… but when the goodness and loving kindness of our Saviour appeared, he saved us…” You get the idea. Do not forget where you came from so you can appreciate who you are today. When we forget history and merely live in the immediate, we have to find our identity in our present status, which is why today there is no room for discussion, because disagreement is a personal attack on our identity.
As we witness the Baptism of Mercie this morning, it is a sign of her spiritual identity, ‘a child of God’. She belongs with the people of God, and her heritage goes back to Adam and Eve, Abraham and Moses, to whom the Lord gave the promises of the Covenant, “I will be your God and you will be my people.”
The Psalmist calls us to tell our children about their spiritual heritage! Tell them of the glorious deeds of the Lord, His might and the wonders He has done. This is their identity – who they are! And we are to tell them so that they too should set their hope on God and not forget His works, but keep His commandments. We spend a lot of time and resources preparing our children to live independently in the world: education, sports, recreation, but do we also intentionally invest that same amount of energy and resources in their spiritual welfare. The most important thing in life is to know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. Let’s rejoice and give thanks this morning as we witness Mercie being baptised. Rejoice in the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness. Rejoice in being His people and the blessings that are ours in Him, and let us tell it to our children!
This coming Sunday we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper, another sacrament of comfort and strength as it reminds us of Jesus and His suffering for our sake, that we could become children of God. Let’s prepare ourselves in this coming week and take the opportunity to put right anything that would hinder us from celebrating the Lord’s Supper next week. Pastor Alan
Sunday 18th September 2022 : Doing the Right Thing
We all hate injustice! It pushes our buttons. We easily feel we have been overcharged, underpaid, or undervalued. People march in the streets to protest against one form of injustice or another. Micah the Prophet lays out the Lord’s complaint against Israel as if in a court of Law. He outlines what good the Lord has done for them, and makes the charge against them that they practised an empty religious ritual, saying one thing with their mouths and doing another with their hearts and lives. But when the Lord lays charges against His people their response is NOT repentance, but rather to suggest more Religious Ceremony! The Lord responds that He requires His people to DO JUSTICE, LOVE KINDNESS and WALK HUMBLY WITH THEIR GOD. In other words, ‘To do the right thing with a heart of compassion, finding our strength in the Lord.’ We are called to bring the Gospel in Word and Action to bring transformation and change.
One of the ways we could do that is by supporting IJM. The International Justice Mission is a Christian organisation that seeks to represent victims in cases of sex trafficking, forced labour, slavery, abuse of police power, theft of property and citizenship rights. It also works with the governments of developing countries to improve justice systems. IJM statistics tell us that there are some 40 million people trapped in slavery today, from forced labour to sex trafficking.
If you wish to support IJM, you could register online. Just look up International Justice Mission Australia. Pastor Alan
Sunday 11th September 2022 : Are you blessed?
Are you happy? Do you want to be happy? We spend a lifetime of effort in pursuit of what we think will bring us happiness: a well-paid or high-ranking job, owning our own house, getting a boat or going on that overseas trip, close family relationships, freedom. But where can you find true happiness?
The Psalmist declares, “Blessed is the man…” – ‘Happy’. Actually it is more than a good feeling that reacts to circumstances. Blessedness is having a sense of well-being and contentment.
What is the key to this happiness? It is in choosing to disassociate with the ways of the wicked and to follow the ways of God, by delighting in His Word and letting it transform your life to serve Him.
The Psalmist shows us the pattern of falling into sin. It starts with ‘Following the crowd’, by taking on wrong thinking. Then goes on to ‘Doing what the crowd does’, by doing the wrong thing and justifying it as okay. And then to ‘Joining the crowd’, by living in rebellion and scorning the things of God. It is subtle; it can be as quick as a gossip session! And we are called NOT to live that way; Blessed is the man who does NOT live in the Way of the Wicked.
But there is another way – the Way of the Righteous. Blessing comes when we delight in the Law of the Lord and mediate on it day and night, to be immersed in the Bible and let it transform our thinking, feelings and actions, to let the Lord guide your way in life through the Bible and His Holy Spirit.
The result of that is that you will be like a tree transplanted by the water with its roots growing deep into the soil of the Word and Promises of God – providing strength in face of life’s storms, grace in time of need, the shelter of comfort and hope in times of despair, a fruitful and meaningful life, and anticipation for the glory of heaven! This is living under the Covenant blessings!
Psalm 73 puts it this way, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Are you Happy and Blessed? Pastor Alan
Sunday 4th September 2022 : The Father’s Compassion
Today is Father’s Day. Apparently, the founder of Father’s Day was Mrs Dodd of Spokane, Washington in 1909. It was her way of honouring her father, who raised her and her five motherless brothers. In Australia, Father’s Day was a topic of discussion in the newspapers from about 1911, and unofficially celebrated from about 1935. In 1958 the first Sunday in September was officially designated as Father’s Day throughout the Commonwealth.
Cynics simply dismiss Father’s Day as merely a marketing ploy to make more money, but can’t we ‘redeem’ these events that go on in the world around us and takes up so much attention?
This morning we consider how the Lord God is our Father, and how He through His fatherhood relates to us in love and compassion, not treating us as our sins deserve, but removing them from us infinitely. The Lord is not merely a stern God sitting in heaven demanding justice and punishing those to eternal damnation if they do not provide it! No! He is also our Heavenly Father standing at the gate each day peering at the horizon, looking for the dust rising from the feet of his returning rebellious but now sorry son, waiting to embrace him in love and forgiveness, reinstating him who once declared his father as good as dead, to sonship in his household.
Let us indeed with the Psalmist burst out into full praise and joy as we remember the “benefits” of salvation: the Holy, Majestic, Creator God comes to me, a wretched sinner, as my Heavenly Father, to adopt me as His Beloved! And so let Him be our pattern of fatherhood (and grand-fatherhood) to our children! Pastor Alan
Sunday 21st August 2022 : Love or Law?
A lot of harm and hurt has been perpetrated under the name of ‘Religion’, using religious customs and regulations to advance one’s personal cause and desires under the “blessing of God”. It was no different in the time of Jesus. The religious leaders had hijacked the religious customs and regulations of the day to serve their own causes and desires for power. Jesus put it this way, “You leave the commandment of God and hold to the traditions of men… thus making void the Word of God by the tradition you have handed down” (Mark 7:8,13). Later, Jesus declares a curse on them for shutting the kingdom in the people’s faces! How did that happen?
Jesus helps us understand this when He gives a response to the Lawyer who asks Him, “Which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus replies, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord your God the Lord is One! And you shall love the Lord your God…” They had lost sight of Whom they were to worship. Jesus reminds us that the Law of God is about shaping our love relationship with God. It shows us how we are to love Him in thankful obedience in response to His love for us, like marriage vows preserve and protect the marriage love relationship.
But when we separate the laws and regulations from the relationship, they become a weapon of power to dominate the other person. The laws then become a burden and bring fear. That is what the religious leaders did to the people. They made up all the traditions of the Elders to regulate their form of ‘holiness’, to feather their own nest of control. We see this at work in our society where individualism is so pushed that we need more rules in order to live in community. When we love and respect one another we don’t need more rules because love always considers the other person.
Jesus calls us to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbour as ourselves. When we focus our energies on this love relationship, then all the other matters will fall in behind. So, how are you living, by ‘Love’ or by the ‘Law?’ Pastor Alan
Sunday 14th August 2022 : God is not a Cemetery Keeper
When a loved one dies, we often speak about the comfort “that we will see them again in heaven”. More than that, we talk about “that we will be reunited with our husband or wife in heaven”. The Sadducees put forward that idea also when they confronted Jesus: ‘If a widow marries seven brothers, under levirate law, who will she be married to in heaven?’ Jesus replied that there will be no marriage or giving in marriage in heaven, because our relationships will be like the angels, a glorified relationship with immortal bodies.
The sad fact is that to comfort each other with the words “we will be reunited as husband and wife in heaven” is but romantic untruth. It is denying the Resurrection of the Body and the wonder of glorification, because it suggests that this life on earth will continue on in heaven. Like the New Testament superseded the Old Testament because Jesus is the fulfilment of the Old Testament promises and symbols, so glorification in heaven supersedes life on earth and is the final fulfilment of all God’s promises of salvation. Our glorified state in Jesus is the next step up from our earthly state as we are raised in immortality. There will be no more death that requires marriage to continue the human race; all God’s promises of salvation will be totally complete, and we will be so consumed by the presence of God that we will be complete in Him, and will not need one another to be complete as we do on earth.
Will we recognise each other in heaven? Probably, but the nature of our relationships will be glorified, with the Lord at the centre of our consciousness.
The Resurrection of the Dead is central to our Christian faith. Our hope is the glory of heaven, salvation applied in all its fullness. See the glory and wonder and fullness that the Lord has for us there! Pastor Alan
Sunday 7th August 2022 : Born of the Virgin Mary
What does the word ‘Incarnation’ mean? Do you know? It is a word that is in a number of our Hymns and Confessions. It is a word that describes something that is central and foundational to our Christian faith. It describes how Jesus who, in the very nature of God, took on the human nature to become our Lord and Saviour. In Philippians 2:5-8, the Apostle Paul describes the process and benefit of the Incarnation. Jesus, in His nature as God, lived in the glory of Heaven but was willing to give that up to take on the humiliation of human nature, born to Mary as a helpless baby, living on earth among the stench of sin, feeling all the feelings of being human – hunger, thirst, tiredness, finiteness. Jesus was willing to be cursed and mocked as the rejected Messiah, and, though innocent, to be judged as a callous criminal and suffer a humiliating death on a Roman Cross.
Why? Why would God want to do that? Why would He give up His glory in Heaven and desire to take on human flesh and suffer the deepest humiliation? It was out of His infinite love and compassion for a sinful humanity that was bound under the curse of sin – for you and for me, sinners, who have rebelled against the Lord God.
You know, we are quick to complain and be critical, revealing that we actually think we don’t deserve this and that we deserve better. What we actually deserve is God’s judgement! But the Lord comes to us in His love by sending Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for our sins that we might be called His “Beloved Children”. Have you ever really thought that through, about what Jesus was willing to go through for your sake and mine? He did whatever it took to reconcile us back to God the Father, even to taking on the human nature and dying on the Cross, suffering the Anger and Judgement of God – the withdrawing of God’s love. He suffered all that for me, …and you…and all who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
“Incarnation” is a big word with huge life-changing implications. It’s a good word to add to your vocabulary and meditate upon. The ‘Word became Flesh’. Thank God that He did! Pastor Alan
Sunday 31st July 2022 : Render to Whom it is Due
When reporters interview a person, they often have an answer (“truth”) in their mind that they are seeking. To this end, they frame their questions to get the person to admit to or give the information sought. They may also resort to ‘trick questions’ intended to trap the person with their own words in order to make them look foolish, incompetent, or appear untruthful. And that is precisely what the “Hunting Group” (Pharisees and Herodians) were doing to Jesus. Mark tells us that they were out to ‘trap’ Jesus in His talk (‘trap’ here means to set a trap to catch and kill a wild animal), to discredit Jesus in front of the people so He would no longer be popular with them. They asked a very loaded and potentially explosive question. “Teacher is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we as Jews pay them or not?” Taxes were a very sore point for the Jews, not only because every time they used the Roman Denarius coin it reminded them that they were an occupied nation, but also because of the coin itself! It had the bust of Tiberius on one side with the inscription ‘Tiberius son of the Divine Augustus’ and a woman sitting upon a throne on the other side with the inscription ‘High Priest’. They believed that the use of this coin was blasphemous, a breaking of the 1st and 2nd Commandments.
The “Hunting Group” thought that this trap was in the bag; if Jesus said “Yes”, then He would be seen by the people as a traitor (like the Tax-collectors). However, if He said “No”, then the Herodians would accuse Jesus of inciting insurrection and rebellion against the Roman Empire! Whichever answer Jesus gave, they had Him!
But Jesus knew their game and called them out on it, and gave an answer that absolutely flummoxed them: Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. Pay taxes to Caesar because of your obligation to pay for the benefits you receive as residents of the Empire, but worship only God.
The trap has been sprung, but on the “Hunters”! Caesar is rebuked for overstepping the mark into the things of God in declaring himself Divine,
and the Jews are rebuked for not giving to God the worship that belongs to Him. This leaves the “Hunters” amazed and marvelling at Jesus, for their sure thing had backfired…again. The “Hunters” became the hunted and that is the foolishness and deception of sin. Pastor Alan
Sunday 24th July 2022 : You’re Finished – But God Is Not!
“This is your last warning!” How often we have heard that from Mum or Dad as children. The ‘last warning’ meant that consequences were going to follow if we did not obey. Jesus and the Religious Leaders were having a confrontation in the Temple about authority. Jesus had come in, turned the temple forecourt upside down, kicked everyone out and accused the Religious Leaders of corruption. This was the final call to repentance, but they continued in the hardness of their hearts. The Parable of the Tenants was the consequence of not heeding the final warning! Note the patience of Owner of the Vineyard. He sends numerous servants to collect the agreed produce and share of the profits. For some 900 years the Lord had sent His Servants the prophets to Israel calling her to repentance. 900 years! As a parent, you give the first warning, then a second because they may not have heard or processed the first warning, but with the third warning would be the consequences! But the Lord persevered for 900 years!
Note also the love of the Owner in that He sends his beloved son, ‘Surely, they will respect my Beloved Son’. That was the Final Warning! The Owner comes and destroys the Tenants because they did not accept even the Son. And so now finally, the Lord’s Judgement has come. In 70 AD the Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, and scattered all the Jewish people. The Temple was never rebuilt nor the priestly office reinstated. God’s Plan of Salvation had been taken from the Nation of Israel and given over to the New Testament Church, with Christ as the Cornerstone.
Today, the Lord is still patient with bringing His Judgement, not wishing any to perish but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter3:9). Or, as Romans 3:26 puts it, “this was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” The Lord is indeed patient and loving, but He is not indulgent. He has given us, as sinners, every opportunity to repent and believe in Jesus! Jesus is His final warning and then Judgement will come! Do not tarry sinner, but heed the call of the Master. Pastor Alan
Sunday 17th July 2022 : By Whose Authority?
‘Authority’ is not a popular word in society today. Covid-19 mandates made us even more shy of authority. The thing is, we are told that we can do anything we want, when we want, and how we want. You can be anything you want to be. This individualistic approach doesn’t leave much room for authority. Even the police undermine the authority of the courts when they publicly bemoan its rulings. In Sri Lanka, the public undermine authority when they take possession of the President’s house and burn down the Prime Minister’s residence. This flouting of authority is nothing new. The Sanhedrin challenged Jesus, demanding He tell them by what authority He had cleansed the Temple, had stopped its worship and had told them all off for making it into a den of robbers. They were hoping to trap Jesus so he would be stoned to death by the people – either for blasphemy or for being a false prophet.
But Jesus answered their question with a question, exposing their motive, which was not to pursue the Truth but to attempt to hold on to their religious authority that was being challenged by Jesus. Jesus asked if the Baptism of John was from heaven or from man? The Religious Leaders were trapped by their own design. If they said John the Baptist was a true prophet of God, then they would have to accept Jesus also as the Lord’s Messiah, because the ministry of John was to introduce Jesus as the Lamb of God, come to take away sins. But if they said that John the Baptist was a false prophet, then the people would turn on them because they believed that John was a true prophet from God. Either way, their authority as Religious Leaders was on the line. So, they took a non-committal way, “We don’t know” – which also blew their credibility as Religious Leaders who were appointed in the Temple system to discern heresy and lead the people in true worship. But the current Temple worship revealed how corrupt they had become – ripping off the worshippers and making it difficult for them to worship at the Temple – and that is why Jesus had to cleanse the Temple.
But are we any different? As we battle with sin and sinfulness, we so quickly spurn the authority of Christ in our lives and even in the church. In confronting the Religious Leaders about their use of authority Jesus gives them an opportunity to repent, to come clean and profess the Truth. However, they chose to continue in the hardness of their hearts and, as leaders, came under the condemnation of Jesus, as we see in the Parable of the Tenants that follows. Let’s not be children of our culture with its anti-authority stance; rather let us be children of God, submitting to the authority of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Pastor Alan
Sunday 3rd July 2022 : Jesus is Lord!
The Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day One is a beautiful summary of the Gospel as it asks, “What is your only comfort in life and in death? And it goes on to answer, “That I am not my own but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ…”
What a wonderful comfort to BELONG to Jesus! To be under His Shepherding care and loving protection. I belong to Jesus because He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. And now I live under the providential care of the Father Who turns all things for my good, along with the empowering care of the Holy Spirit Who assures me of eternal life and makes me whole-heartedly willing and ready to live a new life for Him.
In belonging to Jesus, I live in the joy of sins forgiven, guilt removed and a new life by the Holy Spirit. More than that, the Father has made an eternal commitment to my eternal future by adopting me as His Beloved Child. I belong!
I have a guaranteed place in heaven when I die. I have God’s promises as my assurance, the Bible as my guide and the Holy Spirit as my encourager as I live each day. It means that the Bible is the umpire in our marriage and relationships, showing us how to love one another as Jesus has loved us. It means that when I confess, repent and put things right as far as possible, I can live with a clear conscience. No one can rattle the skeletons in my closet because they have been dealt with in Jesus. It means that I do not have to be afraid of the future, because God is in charge of that, as He works out His saving purposes in history. It means I have a whole new family – the church family with bonds for eternity. It means that I have a whole new way of thinking and living that brings the Lord’s blessing to me and others around me.
It means that I do not have to live in fear as I look at the craziness of the world around me! Jesus is ruling over all things for the Church. As Lord, He rules over the powers and forces of Satan and darkness, taking Satan’s intent to spoil all God’s good gifts and turning it into ways of showing His love and grace.
My comfort is that I belong to Jesus! What is yours? What keeps you going?
Sunday 26th June 2022 : True Worship
The Temple was the place where God dwelt with His people on earth. It was a place of worship, to meet with God through the sacrifices, prayers and worship. It was a place of repentance and seeking forgiveness, of worship and giving thanks to the Lord for all His benefits and answered prayers, a place to behold the beauty of God and to meditate upon His wondrous works.
But the religious leaders had turned it into a market place, a place where they ‘ripped off’ the worshippers and made a lot of money for themselves. The exorbitant charges made it very hard for the worshipper to worship at the Temple. The very place that was meant for finding freedom in God had been turned into a place where it was hard to find God! God had been pushed out of His Temple!
It leads us to wonder if we put any stumbling blocks in the way of others coming to worship God at Tanilba CRC? Have we “claimed” some of church for ourselves to make ourselves feel comfortable and meet our own perceived needs? Is our ‘welcoming switch’ only turned on outside the church doors over coffee, or do we also invite people into our lives and homes?
Jesus said that the Temple was the “House of Prayer for all nations”. I remember people at one church complaining that new South African immigrants were speaking in their mother tongue outside church, and so, instead of the church people being understanding and making the effort to invite them in, the new immigrants were shunned. Are we intentional about bringing the Gospel in the way we do church? Not just the preacher, but also in the way we relate to others?
True worship of God bears the fruit of righteousness. It is the Gospel in action in the way we think, feel and live, and in the way we relate to God and others. It is more than a religious ritual (doing the right thing on the outside). It is a righteous life (doing the right thing on the inside), a life that praises and honours God Who has loved us in Jesus His Son, and that love we then extend to others so that we may all enter together into the worship of God. Pastor Alan
Sunday 19th June 2022 : I will build My Church (II)
Jesus gave the explicit command to the Disciples to, “Go, make disciples of all nations…” and, “You will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” In other words, to continue His work of proclaiming and bringing in the Kingdom of God through the Gospel. But how were they to do that as 12 men? They weren’t! With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Jesus built His Church (Matthew 16:18) through the 12 Apostles, and the New Testament Church would then bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth as we see in the Book of Acts. The church was to be built on the four pillars of the Gospel: 1. Believers, filled with the Holy Spirit, 2. Teaching the Bible, 3. Fellowshipping in Love, and, 4. Submissive in Prayer. If one of these pillars was missing then it was not the church that Jesus is building (cf. Rev. 3:1). But what are the ‘characteristics’ of this church Jesus is building in very Gospel living?
Firstly, we see that they were filled with awe at the power and presence of God in the Gospel message that was authenticated by the ‘Signs and Wonders’. How did the people know that what Peter and the Apostles were teaching was really true? Acts 14:3 tells us that Paul and Barnabas were preaching boldly for the Lord Who bore witness to the Word of His grace granting ‘Signs and Wonders’ to be done by their hands. Today we have the Bible, God’s Word, which is self-authenticating and given witness to by the Holy Spirit. But the sense of AWE was not at the signs and wonders but the Gospel message itself! Today we have the same sense of AWE in worship as we consider what God has done in Jesus! If worship is boring and ‘Ho-Hum’ for you then you are looking in the wrong place. The Gospel itself is AWESOME that the Creator God should want and be delighted in my worship – me a sinner!
Secondly, we see that they “fellowshipped”. There was a special Gospel bond between them as Believers.
- They had all things in common; they were Brothers and Sisters in Christ without any distinction between them; therefore, they extended help to anyone as had need and each one using their gifts as God had given them.
- They had Gospel unity; A oneness of mind, praising God daily and eating together seeing everyone as equal regardless of wealth, position or employment.
- They fellowshipped in Outreach. The Lord added to their number daily, but it was the church that was instructed to ‘make disciples’! As they lived together as the church in Gospel transformed lives, they gave witness to the Gospel message. They would have lived and breathed and had daily conversations about the Gospel.
An ordinary Gospel transformed Church in reality. What about us here in Tanilba Bay? Do we reflect these characteristics? Pastor Alan