Sunday 25th July 2021 : Are you Trustworthy?
In Mark 9:42 Jesus gives an extraordinary warning using mafia style speech. ‘Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better that a great millstone was hung around his neck and he were thrown into the depths of the sea.’ That is a very graphic picture of comparison, showing the very serious nature of the action. This verse is often used with regards to breaking the trust of children by (sexual) abuse, that God takes this very seriously indeed. But Jesus is also talking about those who are vulnerable in their faith, becoming disillusioned and even turning away because of the selfishness and even sinfulness of other believers. The Disciples were caught up in a power game; who was the greatest, who would sit on the right and left side of Jesus when He came into His glory. And then they ‘pulled rank’ on a stranger, yet fellow believer, who was casting out demons in the Name of Jesus. He is not one of us, so he has no right or authority to cast out demons – so they tried to stop him. When our egos get in the way of the Gospel, we lead others astray. In our Western culture we are typically self-oriented and self-entitled. Even as Christians we would be surprised how much of our western culture we have taken on when we stop and have a good look. In the Gospel, church is to be a safe place, yet how many people have moved on, disillusioned by the loneliness and lack of acceptance. We can preach the Body of Christ, and yet be a stumbling block by our lack of hospitality. And Jesus warns us, ‘Look out! Do not cause a vulnerable believer to stumble into sin because of your lack of Gospel trustworthiness.’ Are you trustworthy? Can you say with Paul, ‘Imitate me as I imitate Christ?’ Are you a father or mother in the faith to others?
And if you have failed, broken trust? Then there is always a way back through Repentance and Forgiveness. The Gospel brings restoration and renewal. Our fathers and mothers in the faith that we look up to are not perfect, but they do live by and in the Gospel (including repentance and seeking forgiveness), and in that they are trustworthy. Pastor Alan
Sunday 18th July 2021 : Kingdom Greatness: Humility through Service & Acceptance
We all strive to be great, to do well, to be recognised, to achieve, to succeed; it is part of being made in the image of God and drives creativeness and inventiveness. The Disciples were arguing amongst themselves about who was the greatest. Note that Jesus does not rebuke them for this desire, but redirects it from sin to righteousness. Worldly Greatness is about self: what can I gain out of this for my advantage, to advance my cause. Often, it bends the rules, ignoring the rights and needs of others, and ignoring the truth. Worldly greatness is about having power, prestige, influence and control – being at the ‘top of the ladder’. Kingdom Greatness, however, is about humility: serving the needs of others to honour the Name of Christ. It seeks to be the least, to raise the other up. Worldly greatness is self-centred; Kingdom greatness is Christ centred.
Jesus is the greatest example of Kingdom Greatness! Jesus, who was the greatest as the Son of Man, gave up the glory of God in heaven to come to earth, emptying Himself of all reputation, taking on the human nature and being obedient to death, even death on the Cross (Philippians 2:5-8). He became the LEAST of all, so that we who were the least in sin, would become great before God – inheriting eternal life and being adopted as His children. There is no higher ‘greatness’ than that!
Our greatness is not in what we do, but in who we are in Christ; by faith in Jesus, we are sons of God, and in that greatness in the eyes of the Father, to be the least by serving and accepting others as Jesus served and accepted us. To be truly great in the Kingdom is to be like Jesus. As we battle with our pride, (even an inferiority complex is an act of pride as we see ourselves less worthy than God does, Who made us in His image), it is easy to slip into worldly greatness. How do we battle that?
Firstly, by prayer – as prayer opens our heart to God.
Secondly, by being in the Word – which transforms our minds to God.
Thirdly by asking, ‘Who am I doing this for?’ Checking our motivation. It is honouring to the Lord to do well, to achieve goals, to succeed, but only when it is done in humility, for His glory, will it be truly great. Pastor Alan
Sunday 27th June 2021 : Living by Faith and not by Sight
The Disciples found themselves in an embarrassing situation; a father had come to them and asked them to cast a demon out of his only son. They were not able to. The Scribes started to make fun of their inability and an argument broke out about Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus came and asked what they were arguing about, and the father said that the disciples were unable to cast the demon out of his son, and since they were his disciples, then maybe – if Jesus can do anything more than his Disciples – could He please help us? The inability of the Disciples brought doubt into the father’s mind about the power of Jesus.
Jesus redirects the son’s father; the issue isn’t about power but about faith. All things are possible for those who believe! God’s power is there, but it is given through faith. The father declares that he does believe, but can you help me in my unbelief. Can you overcome my doubts? I am desperate here.
Jesus rebukes the evil spirit and the demon comes out of the boy with a final battering of his body, leaving him for dead. Jesus took the boy by the hand, raised him up and gave him to his father.
Later, the Disciples asked Jesus, why couldn’t we cast out that demon? You gave us the authority to do so, but it didn’t work. Why? Jesus says that it takes prayer. That is, the Disciples were operating in their own strength. They thought that, as Disciples, THEY themselves had the power of Jesus to cast out demons. They relied on their own devices to handle the demon. Jesus teaches that He is the source of Power that is given through faith by prayer.
The question is, how many times have we tried to serve others with this same self-reliance as the disciples? Could this be one of the reasons for our lack of power? It is so easy for us to cross the line from (God’s) Kingdom extending to (self) empire building. At these times, the Lord humbles us through our failures so we would look to Him and find our strength in Him rather than relying on ourselves. The Lord’s power comes through us by His Word and through faith by prayer. Have you observed in your life a relationship between lack of prayer and failure? True faith sees our need for Jesus and His power through faith by prayer; we cannot do it by ourselves. Pastor Alan
Sunday 20th June 2021 : The Glory and Suffering of the Messiah
The Disciples were on a completely ‘different page’ than Jesus! When it dawned on them that Jesus was indeed the Lord’s Messiah, the Son of God, they were very excited. Now Jesus would lead them in the glory and honour of battle against the Romans, and restore the Kingdom of David just like the prophets predicted in the Old Testament. And then, Jesus dashes those expectations with the declaration that He has to suffer and die and be raised again after three days. Peter is so upset that he rebukes Jesus, No! That is not the way it is supposed to happen. Jesus in turn sternly puts Peter in his place. Two pages: one, the glory and honour of battle to win a political kingdom; the other, glory and honour through suffering and death to usher in the spiritual Kingdom of God. Jesus teaches that the glory of the Kingdom is coming, but through suffering and death so that sins may be forgiven by satisfying the justice of God.
In the Transfiguration event, Jesus reveals His glory as the Son of God, and the glory that is to come. The Transfiguration event authenticates His prediction that He will come in the glory of the Father (Mark 8:38). As they are coming down the Mountain, the Disciples question Jesus about the prophecy of Elijah coming before the Messiah: So we can see that you are the Messiah, but where is Elijah as prophesied? Jesus replies that it is good to see that they are interested in Old Testament prophecy, so how about considering the prophecies that the Messiah must suffer and die in order to bring in the Kingdom? Do you get it now? The glory of the Kingdom of God will come through the shame of suffering and death in being rejected. Oh, by the way, Elijah has come in John the Baptist, who prepared the hearts of the people as the messenger of the Messiah.
Which “page” are you on? Are you like the Disciples who put their own (earthly) expectations on the Kingdom of glory without the shame? Or do you follow Jesus the Messiah of the Bible? Are you willing to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and bear the ‘shame’ of the Cross? After the suffering and shame comes the glory of the Cross. As Jesus was exalted by the Father (Philippians 2:9), so we too shall be exalted by the Father to eternal glory! Pastor Alan
Sunday 13th June 2021 : The Cost of Discipleship
There was a story about a convict who had been sentenced to the penal colony of Australia. Over time he had bought his freedom and claimed 100 acres to make a farm. It was his dream empire! But the aborigines also claimed that land as their own, to the extent that they harvested the colonist’s crop for themselves. Inevitably a clash followed. One day a group of colonists planned a savage surprise attack on the tribe of aborigines in the early hours of the morning. The colonists brutally slaughtered the aborigine tribe. This convict went on to be a wealthy land owner. He had gained much over the years and yet was never quite at peace with it, for he had sold his soul in the slaughter of those aborigines. He had crossed the line of integrity and justice.
Jesus teaches us, ‘What good is it for a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul?’ What good is it to have wealth, prestige, power, pleasure – if you have lost your soul, if you cannot, despite all these achievements, find peace and true satisfaction?
God created this world and everything in it. And He created it for His praise and glory.
But Satan tempted Adam and Eve to live for their own glory; that life is about self-autonomy, living as I like, to be calling the shots.
Jesus gives us a way back to living for the glory of God, having a fullness of life of blessing and peace. He calls us to follow Him, to be His Disciples. But you need to be ready to lose it in order to gain it. What is it we need to lose?
First, we must lose ourselves by putting Jesus on the throne of our lives. We now live for Jesus and no longer for ourselves.
Secondly, we must take up our cross. That means being willing to suffer for the Name of Jesus as we live our everyday lives.
Thirdly, we must follow Jesus, that is, live in obedience to His ways, choosing to do and say what Jesus commands us to do and say, and looking to Him for the power to see it through, to do these things even when we don’t feel like it.
Jesus calls us to lay down our lives so we may gain His life and the glory of His salvation. Are you truly laying down your life? Pastor Alan
Sunday 9th May 2021 : Mother’s Day
Proverbs 31:28, “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” My Mum was my hero in the Christian faith. The Lord in His love and compassion took her home last October, her work on earth for the Kingdom finished. It is my privilege to be one of the children who arise and call their mother blessed. Now don’t get me wrong, my Mum certainly had ‘clay feet’. But she left me with a spiritual legacy that I will always praise the Lord for. My Mum was a happy person. She would not allow herself to become a victim of circumstances. She was never thrilled about migrating from Holland to Australia. Nevertheless, she followed her adventurous husband and, in many ways, simply made the best of it. I got to know her in a new way after Dad died some 20 years ago. By faith, she had a positive outlook on life. My Mum was a loyal friend. I can remember a lady in the congregation who lived in perpetual misery and self-pity. But Mum always rang her and kept up a one-sided friendship for many, many years, patiently enduring the moans and groans and complaints. My Mum had a quiet ministry of encouragement. She would make cards and send them off. She always had a friendly word for everyone. One time she rang a young man in the congregation, asking if he was all right because she missed him at church lately. Many years later that man said, “Tante Renske, I was about to leave the church, but your phone call changed my mind. Thank you for caring.” In worldly terms, my Mum was an uneducated, unskilled, simple migrant. But she had a firm faith in her Lord and was unashamed to let people know. As her son, I arise and call her blessed, thankful for the spiritual legacy she has left me.
Today, motherhood is not honoured very highly; feminism calls women to advance themselves; often having children is seen as impeding a working career. But be the woman God has called you to be! Be convinced of God’s plan for the family as the foundational building block of society. One person wrote, ‘the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world’. Motherhood is a most blessed place in the family and in society. Cherish it, enjoy it, be blessed by it. As Mother’s Day is celebrated in our country today, my prayer is that your children will arise and call you blessed because of the spiritual legacy you have passed down to them. Pastor Alan
Sunday 2nd May 2021 : The Father is here; It’s All Right
The situation in India is critical. People are desperately seeking medical help as they suffer from Covid-19, with despair in their eyes as they watch loved ones dying before them on the street. A question that often arises in such circumstances is, “Where is God? If God is a God of love, why does He allow so much anguish and suffering of the innocent?” The Psalmist writes, “God is our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble…” So where is God in the Covid-19 pandemic?
Let’s consider a few Biblical truths: We suffer because of sin in the world. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God they brought the curse of sin into the world – and in their sin-corrupted hearts, people want to be god. They want to be superior and in control. Therefore, people make bad choices that hurt other (even innocent) people. The creation is also under the bondage of sin, resulting in natural catastrophes and diseases. We as the human race are responsible for the suffering in the world!
On the other hand, God is sovereign, nothing happens outside His purpose and will. Even the hairs on our head are numbered and accounted for. So, is it God’s will that we suffer? No, He feels our pain and hears our cries, and evil makes Him indignant (Matthew 18:5-6); He is not simply like a policeman impartially directing traffic. Our heavenly Father is intimately acquainted with our everyday lives. So why does He “allow” suffering? Because in His infinite love and mercy He has reached down to us by sending His Son, Jesus of Nazareth, to suffer and die on the Cross to pay for our sins and reconcile us to Himself. It was God’s will that Jesus should suffer and die on the Cross (Isaiah 53:10). Yet it was our sin that was responsible for His death! In His wisdom and power God has used evil to overcome evil at the Cross. God had done something about our suffering, and is doing something about our suffering, in Jesus. God Who loves us so much that He was willing to sacrifice His own Son is not a God Who is callous, unfair, and cruel in His dealing with humanity. And yet, He is the God Who sovereignly controls our evil and the curse of the world in such a way that He will ultimately bring everything to good – just look at the Cross. God’s sovereignty and our responsibility; who can understand it? But we don’t have to – we just have to look to the Cross and TRUST Him as our Heavenly Father. Pastor Alan
Sunday 25th April 2021 : Blessed are Those who are Persecuted (The Joy of Persecution)
Today we celebrate ANZAC Day; coming together, in person and in spirit, to commemorate the men and women who have served our nation in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations. On the 25th of April 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the Allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula. These became known as ANZACS and the pride they took in that name continues to this day. One of the aspects of ANZAC Day is pride, being proud of and thankful to our servicemen and women who have paid the price to leave us the legacy of what our nation is today; free, democratic, one people of Australia (made up of three people groups: Aboriginal, English and Immigrants). It is this idea that Jesus is bringing when He talks about the joy of persecution. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven … Rejoice and be glad”.
In the Jewish culture, suffering was seen as a punishment from God. In our western culture suffering is seen as something to be avoided. But in the Kingdom of Heaven, suffering is seen as privilege and joy.
For one, it is a badge of discipleship, of belonging. Jesus said if you follow Me you will be persecuted; what happened to Me will also happen to you.
For another, we suffer knowing that our reward is in heaven. It is part of the journey of faith.
And finally, suffering for the sake of Jesus is being part of the proud tradition of the prophets. Our names are included in the Heroes of Faith listed in Hebrews 11. In suffering for the sake of Jesus we know where we stand (we belong to Jesus); we know where we are going (on the journey to heaven); and, we know we are standing in the tradition of the prophets (worthy to stand with them in faith which is a heritage as old as the Bible story itself).
As we commemorate those who have died for our country to give us the freedom we enjoy today, let us also celebrate that we may be part of the battle of the Kingdoms as followers of Jesus, finding a joy and gladness in our suffering for Jesus as it affirms our identity as His People and the hope of heaven to come, where we may enjoy the freedom from sin in all its forms in the New heaven and the Earth; where all things have been made new. Pastor Alan
Sunday 18th April 2021 : Blessed are Those who are Persecuted (The Trials of Persecution)
Last year, Margaret Court was awarded the Companion Order of Australia Award to recognise her outstanding tennis achievements, but also partly to rectify a gender imbalance in the awards – ‘that our greatest women’s player deserved the same level of recognition as our greatest men’s player (i.e. Rod Laver).’ A great howl of protest came from all quarters that this award should not be given to Margaret Court, because as a Christian and Pastor she had been publicly saying that same-gender relationships are against the design of God the Creator as taught in the Bible. Others who also had received the Award of Australia handed them back in protest – they maintain that giving the Award to Margaret Court sanctioned her hurtful and disgraceful views which caused division! One protestor put it this way, “I’m returning this award because I believe the elevation of Margaret Court is contrary to the integrity and meaning of the award and her effort in amplifying divisive opinions has not made our community a better place and contradicts the objectives of the award. I couldn’t think of a better use of the award (i.e. handing it back in protest against Margaret Court’s award) than to stand up to religious bigotry.”
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Margaret Court is indeed being persecuted for being a Christian and publicly holding to Biblical Christian views!
What about you? Are you willing to stand up and be counted as a follower of Jesus? Are you willing to be persecuted for Righteousness sake? Willing to call out wrong as wrong, in the eyes of the Lord? Today we will consider this Beatitude as the ‘Trials of Persecution’; next Sunday the ‘Joys of Persecution.’ Pastor Alan
Sunday 11th April 2021 : Blessed are the Peacemakers
Mother used to say, “I am just going for five minutes peace!” when the household got very busy with playing and fighting children. ‘Peace’ is often thought of as ‘the absence of conflict’. But True Peace is more than the absence of something. The Old Testament word “Shalom” captures the Biblical idea of peace. When two Jews greeted one another with the word ‘Shalom’ they were saying: ‘May you enjoy full satisfaction and tranquillity that God brings. May God’s highest good be yours!’ And so, it carries the idea of wholeness, harmony, being at one with God. True Peace is being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and living under His favour. So how does that translate into everyday life in the call by Jesus to be Peacemakers?
Essentially, being a True Peacemaker is to apply the Gospel to conflict. How did God reconcile Himself to sinful and rebellious mankind?
Firstly, He ‘called out’ sin for what it was, “Adam, Where are you? What have you done?” Adam was confronted with his wrongdoing.
Secondly, God dealt with our sin through the death of Jesus on the Cross. The price was paid; His justice satisfied. There was no compromise, no negotiating, and no sweeping under the carpet. He dealt with our sin through Truth and Righteousness.
Thirdly, He called us to repentance, to a change of heart: to confess our sins, seek forgiveness, with a desire to turn away from the wrong.
Fourthly, in giving His forgiveness, there is now reconciliation and a new relationship, a new start: He forgives us our sins and remembers them no more. That is the Biblical pattern for resolving conflict.
True Peace is where two people resolve a conflict through a change of heart by repentance and forgiveness, and live in harmony without that wrong standing between them. But our modern Western culture has introduced a new offence “you have hurt my feelings”. Consequently, feelings have become the benchmark of right and wrong rather than truth and justice. Subsequently, relationships become power games as we force our personal views on others rather than working with truth and justice. And so we have ‘bending the knee’, renaming, re-education, more laws, cancel culture, etc., as the power game for dominance is played out. However, God’s way is always the best way! Let us be True Peacemakers by applying the Gospel to conflict, towards true reconciliation and Peace. Pastor Alan
Sunday 4th April 2021 : The Empty Tomb
It is hard to grieve when there is no body. It is even more tragic when you believe the body of your loved one has been desecrated. Imagine Mary Magdalene’s horror when she came to the tomb of Jesus and found it empty. She was beside herself with grief and horror! She and the women had come to the grave early Sunday morning (when the Sabbath was over) to perform the last burial rites on their Beloved Teacher, Jesus; an act of love and dignity. Instead they found the tomb empty. The angels sitting inside the tomb asked Mary why she was weeping. At first, you would think that was obvious, but in fact it was not, because Mary was actually seeking the living among the dead. Jesus had Risen from the Dead – seen by the empty tomb and folded grave clothes. Jesus the Good Shepherd gently and lovingly steers and comforts Mary. He calls to her, ‘Mary!’ – revealing Himself to her as the Resurrected Christ. Mary is overjoyed to see Jesus alive! But Jesus then rebukes her, ‘Do not cling to Me’ because I have not just been made alive again (like Lazarus who died again later) – I have been resurrected to glory and therefore our relationship has changed. I am no longer your Teacher; I am now your Lord and Saviour.
The very purpose of the Crucifixion and Resurrection was to bring in a new relationship: restoration between God and sinful mankind. This new relationship is expressed in the new terms Jesus uses about the Disciples: ‘My brothers’. In Jesus Crucified and Resurrected we are now adopted as the Children of God the Father! Imagine the relief the Disciples had when Mary told them what Jesus had said. The cowardly deserters who had all run away at the Cross have now been restored to Jesus! My Brothers!
As we celebrate the Resurrection let us rejoice in this new relationship; God as our Father and Jesus as our Brother, and we being brothers and sisters in Christ. A new relationship with a new life and a new lifestyle. All because Christ has Risen indeed! Pastor Alan
Sunday 14th March 2021 : Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
Conception and birth are still something of a mystery/miracle, despite our scientific knowledge today. When does the soul enter the body; how is the soul created, where does it come from? At conception everything is there to make a person. The wonder of conception and birth drives us in praise and adoration of our Lord God, Who created the heavens and the earth and everything in them.
When a child receives the sign and seal of baptism, it is a sign of belonging; God’s mark on that child as belonging to the Covenant family with all the blessings of being brought up in a Christian home; tasting the good things of God. This sign of belonging and being under the promises of God is also a call to that child to claim these promises of God by a personal faith as he/she grows older and more aware.
The psalmist guides our thinking when He praises the Sovereign Lord in His power as Creator and of Providence. God designed us a humans; we are His workmanship – being made in His image, able to reason and have morals and hold relationships. A baby is God’s gift of life. And we don’t have to worry about that child’s future in a changing world because his/her days have already been ordained and written in God’s Book of Providence. God is working out His gracious and loving purpose and will; even through the wicked intentions of mankind – we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus! Let us praise the Lord this morning for His power as Creator and being the God of Providence and for His saving presence in our lives through Jesus Christ – our Lord and Saviour. Pastor Alan
Sunday 7th March 2021 : The Almighty God – My Father in Christ Jesus
Imagine two boys playing in the school ground. They are arguing about their Dads. One boy says to the other, “My Dad is stronger than your Dad!”, and the other replies, “Oh Yeah! Well my Dad is smarter than your Dad!” There is a real sense of pride for a child to think of their Dad being strong and clever; with it comes a sense of security. With a Dad like that, we will be okay. Dad is smart enough to fix it and strong enough to deal with it.
You could say that this is also the tone of Lord’s Day 9 of the Heidelberg Catechism as it teaches us about the Almighty God being our Father. The Lord Almighty Who created the heavens and the earth is my Father! It is a celebration of comfort and security. How great is our Father in Heaven? He knows everything and can do anything! What a comfort it is and what security it provides to have the Almighty God as our Heavenly Father.
How can the Almighty God, Who created the universe and upholds it every day with His word and will, be our Father? Through our Lord Jesus Christ; His Son. When we repent of our sins (for rebelling against God and not giving Him the glory as Creator) and believe that Jesus died on the Cross to pay for our sins, God adopts us as His ‘Beloved Children’ and we come under His favour and care as our Heavenly Father. In Jesus, I trust my Heavenly Father to provide whatever I need in body and soul, and that He will turn to my good whatever adversity He sends me in this dark world.
In whom do you trust? Pastor Alan
Sunday 28th February 2021 : Despair
In the past week or so some of us have had news from friends that their children have committed suicide. It is hard for most of us to imagine the sense of hopelessness and despair that leads to such devastating actions. Often, we advise people to give themselves a mental shake and just get on with it – especially when some are hit very hard by grief. Having a friend or family with suicidal fixations is very hard – not knowing what you will find every time when you come home. You can find yourself dealing with anger for feeling that your life has been hijacked by this family member / friend’s unwellness. And it is so typical that we make these events about us and so we lose the compassion for helping the other. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7). How can we show mercy in these situations?
Well, the Psalmist in Psalm 77 felt despair. He is so troubled that he cannot speak, he cannot sleep, and God feels so far away – life is just darkness, like being in a black hole. He cried out to God and felt disturbed; he felt abandoned even by God, that God had rejected him, that God had withdrawn His love and compassion.
But there was one little ray of light that shone in the blackness of despair! When he stopped looking at God through his feelings and started to look at God through His actions in history, the Psalmist could trace the utter faithfulness of God in His dealings with His people Israel in history. Whatever he felt, the facts were that God has not abandoned him, He has not failed in His promises, He has not withdrawn His love; and so, with those Biblical facts, the Psalmist slowly realigned his thinking. And in time, the darkness of feeling abandoned and in despair turned into the light of being loved and cherished – God is indeed faithful! But this understanding is something each person has to come to within themselves by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Of course, mental illness (depression) is far more complicated than correcting wrong thinking brought about by feelings of despair. There can be hormonal and chemical imbalances, trauma, exhaustion, grief, sin, and all other factors could also be involved. For the Psalmist, realising that God had not abandoned him was the pin-light of hope in the darkness of despair that grew into a brilliant light of God’s love in his life. Pastor Alan
Sunday 21st February 2021 : Blessed are the Pure in Heart
How do you ‘get right with God’? That has been the question right through history! The Psalmist asks, “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in His holy place?” (Psalm 24:3) The Psalmist replies, “He who has clean hands and pure heart…” (Verse 4). That is, who lives a holy life and has their heart in tune with God.
Jesus and the Pharisees argued about it. The Pharisees taught that if you obey the Law of Moses and follow the tradition of the Elders, you will earn God’s favour. In other words, you get right with God by what you do. (And many people today would say the same thing – God will let me into heaven when I die because I have lived a pretty good life).
But Jesus replied that ‘getting right with God’ is a matter of the heart; because what you do is directed by the condition of your heart. In the Beatitudes Jesus puts it this way, “Blessed are the Pure in Heart for they will see God.” A sinful heart is blinded by sin. God created the world; sinful man explains the beginning of the world by evolution. God created male and female equal yet complementary to one another; sinful man says that you can be whatever gender you choose to be and have intimate relationships with whatever gender you choose. God gave His Law to govern the harmony and wellbeing of mankind (second use of the Law); sinful man says that I choose my own rules to live by. In this sinful blindness, sinful man cannot ‘see’ God for Who He is and what He has revealed Himself to be. It is only when our hearts have been cleansed and renewed by repentance and faith that we can see what God’s will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2). A Pure Heart is a heart that has been cleansed and renewed by the Holy Spirit through repentance and faith.
A Pure Heart that has been cleansed and renewed then strives to live a life of “clean hands” – with integrity, a hunger for purity, a hatred for sin, a love for fellow believers, and a preoccupation with God (the reason why man exists is to bring glory to God and enjoy Him forever). To love God is to love His Word and Will, to desire to be holy as our Heavenly Father is Holy.
The sad fact is that we wrestle with our old nature and fall into sin and temptation. At those times it is hard to “see” God, hard to appreciate His Love and Kindness as in our sinful blindness we demand to know “why”, or think life is unfair. However, in repentance and faith we have further renewal of hearts and then again we can ‘see’ God!
Are you living life by externals, living up to the expectations of others, obeying the religious rules? Or do you have a Pure Heart, seeing God by a living relationship with Him as your Heavenly Father? ‘Clean hands and pure heart’ – in Jesus through repentance and faith. Pastor Alan
Sunday 14th February 2021 : Blessed are the Merciful
Are you compassionate? Do you care for other people and have a desire to help them in their need? It doesn’t come naturally! On the one hand, we live in a very entitled and self-absorbed western culture (I deserve to be happy and fulfilled), and even as Christians some of it rubs off into our thinking and feelings about things. On the other hand, we have a tendency to be critical rather than gracious. If we see an overweight person we tend to think ‘well… you are what you eat!’, often without considering their (mental) health issues or possible side-effects of medication. We can very quickly judge people by what they look like to us and disassociate ourselves from them, rather than seeing them as people with needs just like you and me. Just go down to the supermarket and watch people and analyse what you feel about them as you consider what they look like to you. How many did you think critically (if only they…) about? If a person smells do you simply walk away (disassociate) to escape the smell, or do you consider why they would smell like that and can I help?
When Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful…”, He was introducing a very radical concept and attitude. We could describe mercy as “Compassion in Action”. That is: Seeing someone in need, feeling compassion (having a desire to help) for them, and doing something to help them in their need. For example, a person who asks your forgiveness is a person in need of being released from their guilt. Forgiveness is by its nature an act of mercy because it is asking you to let go of the hurt you have the right to feel. Compassion desires reconciliation of the relationship and ‘compassion in action’ (mercy) is to forgive and be restored.
We are empowered to be merciful as Christians because we have first-hand experience of being treated with mercy – compassion in action – when God the Father reached out to us in Jesus Christ Crucified, to bring forgiveness and reconciliation. If God had treated us as we deserved we would be lost under His Anger and Judgement. But the Lord chose to be compassionate, and putting that compassion into action (mercy), brought us salvation, meeting our greatest need in life, the forgiveness of our sins. Knowing God’s loving kindness, we can be forgiving as He has forgiven us; we can be compassionate as He has reached out to us in our desperate need. Being merciful is a part of the character of being a Christian, for not only have we received mercy from the Lord, but we also have the guidance of the Bible and empowering indwelling of the Holy Spirit! The greatest act of mercy is to bring the Gospel in word and in deed, by telling the message and showing that message by a heart of compassion in action. Are you compassionate? Pastor Alan
Sunday 7th February 2021 : What Must I Do to be Saved?
The Philippian Jailer asked Paul and Silas, “What must I do to be saved?” This is a good question! Paul and Silas replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved!” Now what does that mean, “Believe in the Lord Jesus”?
What answer would you give? Can you give witness to the four tenants of the Gospel?
- In the beginning God created the world and it was very good. He created mankind to worship and have a special friendship with Him.
- But Adam & Eve rebelled against the authority of the Lord God, breaking that relationship, and bringing God’s anger and judgement on the world.
- But in love and faithfulness the Lord God sent His Son Jesus to die on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sin so we can be restored to a relationship with Him.
- This work of God in Jesus calls for a response of repentance and faith; believing in the promises of God and so turning away from sin to live a new life of thankfulness in Christ.
And so, firstly we need to KNOW what the Gospel is. Many people today do not know about Jesus except as a swear word in the movies.
Secondly, we need to be CONVICTED that the Gospel of Jesus is true. It is not another religious myth or story but that Jesus literally and historically came and died on the Cross and rose again from the dead. He was a real person with a real God-given task.
Thirdly, we need to be ASSURED that this is true for me! That Jesus died on the Cross for MY sins! And so it calls me to respond in repentance and faith, confessing my sin, being forgiven, and living in thankfulness to the Lord.
These three – Knowledge, Conviction and Assurance – make up True Gospel Faith; if we don’t have them we are not saved. Many people do not even ask the question put by the Philippian Jailer. They simply go along their everyday lives of eating and sleeping, working and playing, without a thought for eternity. The Apostle Peter calls us to be prepared at any time to give an account for the hope that is within you – so that you may be able to answer clearly when questioned: “What must I do to be saved?” Pastor Alan
Sunday 31st January 2021 : Blessed are the Passionate
What is your passion in life? What gets you up in the morning and gives direction to your day? The Apostle Paul says that his driving passion is to know Christ! Forgetting what lies behind, he strains forward to the goal of being more and more like Jesus! He has given up all his good works realising that they are but a putrid stench in the nostrils of the Holy God and so he has thrown his life upon the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus His Lord. In Jesus is a righteousness that comes from God by faith in Him. Now what does that actually mean?
Well, righteousness means “to be right with God.” And we are right with God in three ways: legally, morally and socially.
- Legally, being right with God is by God the Father declaring that a person who believes in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour stands Holy, Blameless and Pure before Him. Sin has been forgiven and guilt removed – just as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner. We also call that being clothed with the righteousness of Christ – being saved.
- Morally, being right with God is by living in God’s ways as He has revealed to us in the Bible and His Law. It is the desiring and striving to become more and more like Jesus as we live our everyday lives, under the guidance of the Bible and empowering of the Holy Spirit.
- Socially, being right with God is striving to bring His justice in the world, to set the captive free, release the oppressed, protect the innocent and to comfort the grieving. It is being the representative of Jesus in the Public Square because the Gospel has something to say about all of life to bring transformation under the Kingship of Jesus. We have a voice to be heard!
To ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness’ is to be passionate about the Gospel of Jesus, to dedicate our whole life to Jesus and His transforming Gospel work in whatever we do and wherever we are in life. Paul’s passion was to know Jesus and to be like Him in every way – because Jesus is the Perfect Person.
What about you today? Are you merely interested in Jesus – in what He can do for you? Or are you passionate about Jesus – how you can serve Him in all things with your whole life? He gave His whole life for you! Pastor Alan
Sunday 24th January 2021 : Blessed are the Meek
In the end it is all about control. Depression, anxiety, manipulation, abuse, terrorism, war: it is all about having control or feeling that you do not have control. Our western culture promotes being in control. You have the right to be happy, to fulfil your goals, ambitions and desires. You can be anything you want to be. Now, to have control is part of being human. God made us to take care of His creation; we have the instinct to survive; we have the ability to organise and be creative; we have the ability to have relationships and be responsible. Control is not an evil thing. It is necessary in order to live. It’s when we want to have the ‘power’ to control that things can become evil.
Look at the civil unrest in the United States as the groups strive for the power to control! Our culture tells us that being powerful is to be successful – you can’t get ahead unless you have power! Might is power! That is also how the Jews felt at the time of Jesus. They were waiting for a Messiah to lead them to battle to overthrow the Romans and establish Israel as an independent nation again.
But Jesus says to them, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”
No! No! No! That can’t be right! Blessed are the powerful for they shall conquer the enemy and take back what is legitimately theirs! Blessed are the meek? Generally, meekness is considered as weakness or being helpless or spineless. But Jesus is teaching something else altogether.
Biblical meekness is ‘power under control’. The Bible says (Numbers 12:3) that Moses was the meekest man on earth, yet he led the nation of Israel out of Egypt and through the desert for 40 years! He was a powerful leader! What made him meek? He put his power of leadership under the control of the Lord God of Israel. He was the Lord’s servant. And that is the crux of it – who is in control of your life? Do you submit the control of your life to the Lord and His ways, or do you seek to control your life yourself by your ways? For example, in principle, anxiety is about control; you feel you are not in control of the situation so you feel helpless. One way to ease anxiety is to remember in faith that God is in control of the universe and history, and in Jesus is working out all things for the good of those who love Him. As the Apostle Paul says, if God has sent Jesus to die on the Cross for us, will He not also give us all things? Give the control to God and it will ease your anxiety. Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit all the blessings of belonging to God – God Who is making a new heaven and new earth! To whom do you give the control of your life? Pastor Alan
Sunday 17th January 2021 : Blessed are Those who Mourn
`Happy are the unhappy, for they shall be comforted.’ That sounds a bit contradictory, doesn’t it? To be happy you need to be unhappy. Lots of people are unhappy – just take the effects of the Covid-19 Virus; especially those people in Brisbane that are required to do their time of quarantine all over again! Or, Victorians who were locked out of their own State! Many people in America are unhappy as they are embroiled in civil unrest; let alone the whole Black Lives Matter issue that seems to have gone off the boil. We can be unhappy in our marriages, or with work, our financial situation, our struggle with health and depression. We are NOT happy to be unhappy at all!
So what is Jesus teaching in the second Beatitude? Simply put, Jesus is saying that those who ‘mourn’, that is, those who have a godly sorrow over sin, will be comforted by the power of the Gospel. Remember ‘happiness’ is a feeling that is tied to our circumstances; we feel good when things are going our way. The focus of happiness is me! But to ‘mourn’ with a godly sorrow is to have the focus on God, to consider how we have hurt and betrayed the Lord with our disobedience and defiance; and how sin spoils all His good gifts to us. To mourn is to look at the world and life from the Lord’s point of view.
Godly sorrow over sin leads to repentance, where we receive the Lord’s forgiveness and come into His family, under His Fatherly care and protection. And that is our comfort; that I am not my own but belong to Jesus Who has paid for all my sins and set me free from the dominion of the devil; coming under the loving care of the Father and receiving the Holy Spirit who empowers me to live for Jesus. When we repent and live for Jesus, we receive the power of the Gospel in our lives. In Jesus we receive a wholeness and wellbeing in our lives that makes us blessed. In Jesus we receive mercy and find grace in our time of need. It means that we can be patient and loving in a difficult marriage because we are loved by the Father. It means we can be accepting when our bodies get old and worn, because our self-worth is not in what we can do but who we are in Jesus (and we have a renewed body in store for us at the Resurrection!). It means that we can find hope when we are down and feel lonely, because Jesus is our brother. It means we can be at rest when things just seem to go all wrong, because our Father is working out all things for our good – yes even through the terrible times. This is Gospel power! This is the comfort for those who ‘Mourn’. Pastor Alan
Sunday 10th January 2021 : Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
Is there a difference between ‘Happiness’ and ‘Blessedness’? Do you have the right or deserve to be happy? Many people think so! Often we hear the comment, “Oh well, as long as they are happy it is alright.” But is ‘Happiness’ the value to measure life on? Happiness has the idea of happening in it; it is what we feel in response to what is happening to us – to our circumstances. If things do not go our way, we are not happy! That means to be happy we want to control our circumstances. Happiness is self-centred and self-absorbed; it is all about me and what I am feeling or desire. The world is obsessed with the pursuit of happiness – just consider the content of all the commercials.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus brings an alternative focus to life: “Blessedness”. To be ‘blessed’ is to live under the approval and favour of God. Rather than us controlling circumstances, we let God control the circumstances as He works out His purposes and will for all those who love Him. There is a joy and contentment even in terrible circumstances because the Lord will provide grace in our time of need. The Apostle Paul has declared in Philippians 4 that he has learned to be content in whatever circumstances because he can do all things in Him Who strengthens me.
How do we enter into this ‘blessedness’? By being ‘Poor in Spirit’ realising that we are but spiritually destitute before the Holy God and have nothing to bring to the table but our dirty hands and a plea for mercy. Often we think of ourselves more highly that we ought – especially in the pursuit of happiness (having my desires and dreams come true) – as we focus on ourselves. Today, Jesus calls us to see ourselves as we really are; condemned sinners but saved by grace through our Lord Jesus Christ. Living in the kingdom of God – under His approval and favour – brings true joy and happiness as we live and serve Him as the focus of our lives. Our self-image, self-worth, value, meaning for life, contentment all come to fullness in Jesus Christ. In Him we have true blessedness as we live under God’s approval and favour. What are you busy with today – the pursuit of happiness or the receiving of Blessedness? Pastor Alan
Sunday 3rd January 2021 : God’s Substitute Who Satisfies
Imagine being in court, and the accused is found guilty and convicted of the crime committed. He has to pay a substantial fine. A benefactor says he will pay the penalty, the fine, for the man’s crime. But the criminal still hasn’t got off ‘scot-free’ – because the court record shows that he has been found guilty and fined. He is still guilty of the crime even though the penalty has been paid. And that guilty record hounds him wherever he goes. If he wants to apply for a job, a visa, or rent a house – inevitably one of the questions will be ‘Does he have a criminal record?’
In the Gospel, Jesus has set us ‘completely free from sin’ and made us right with God; the two are different sides of the one coin. God is a holy and just God and He will deal with all sin. Jesus dying on the Cross paid the penalty for our sin – but He also took the guilt of our sin. His obedience has been reckoned to our account and our sins have been laid on Him on the Cross. Therefore, in Christ, God sees us as Holy, Blameless and Pure before Him; just as if I have never sinned nor been a sinner. No sin, no guilt, slate wiped clean – restored to a friendship with God the Father.
This is the amazing Good News of the Gospel. This is what makes the celebration of the Lord’s Supper so significant. Jesus died on the Cross for me; to pay for my sins, to erase my guilt, to restore me to the Father. As we celebrate the Lord’s Supper today, may we again have that sense of awe and amazement as we eat the bread and drink from the cup – the body of Jesus broken and His blood shed for my sins, for me! And let us praise Him as our Lord and Saviour. Pastor Alan
Sunday 27th December 2020
A New Year is dawning. What will the future bring? This year the Covid-19 pandemic swept our feet from under us, leaving the world and life as we knew it in turmoil. What can we expect for the coming year?
The Israelites had the same question in a slightly different setting. In unbelief the Hebrews had refused to go into Canaan the first time they stood at the River Jordan. God has promised that He would go before them and win the battle, for this was the land promised to them through Abraham. They complained bitterly that the Lord had brought them out of Egypt into the desert to kill them. They complained that they would have been better off staying under the slavery and paganism of Egypt rather than be God’s people here in the desert at the Promised Land. When you talk with our First Nation brothers and sisters, you see how identity is deeply tied up with ‘Country’ – land is very, very important. Even for us, owning your own house is the Australian dream. The Israelites had totally lost perspective. Here in Psalm 90, Moses brings them back to perspective as God’s people.
The first thing is that ‘the Lord is God’! We become indulgent and self-absorbed when we lose perspective of life from God’s view. The Lord is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. He designed creation and how it should all work. The problems begin when we try to live and treat the earth our own way, ignoring God as Creator.
The second thing is that ‘the Lord is our Redeemer’. He is controlling and directing history to work out His plan of salvation; there is no such thing as luck or chance.
The third perspective Moses teaches is that ‘as mankind we are not equal with the Lord God.’ Therefore we should stop making ourselves the centre of the universe! God says, “Love Me above everything else.” As the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31 – “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God”. The reason we exist as human beings on earth is to bring glory to God. God’s ways are always the best ways; leave His ways and you will have heartache, suffering, misery and depravity – the consequences of sin. But all is not hopeless!
The fourth perspective of life that Moses teaches us is that ‘the Lord God is also merciful.’ Though Israel rebelled in the desert, God did not abandon them. They still came to and possessed the Promised Land.
Today, God is still merciful through His Son Jesus Christ. In Jesus we are reconciled to God, living once again in His blessing and favour. A New Year is dawning, and we look forward to it with a sense of anticipation. What will the Lord in His mercy and faithfulness bring to us in this New Year? We face the New Year with a sense of hope because we face it with the promises of God. Pastor Alan
Sunday 20th December 2020
King Ahaz is in big trouble! Isaiah the prophet says that King Ahaz and the royal household of David were shaken as trees in a cyclone! They were scared witless. Syria and Israel wanted King Ahaz to make an alliance with them against Assyria – the new up and coming world power. King Ahaz refused, so now in retaliation they were making war against him. And then there were the Assyrians coming down from the North behind them. It looked like they were about to be wiped out as a nation! But the Lord God comes to King Ahaz. Don’t worry about Syria and Israel, they are but smouldering stumps – they have no power in them; they are “has-beens”. And don’t worry about Assyria either; I the Lord will protect My people, and to show this is a real promise you can ask for a sign – a guarantee – that this will happen. Just trust Me!
Now, this shows up the real issue: King Ahaz refuses to ask for a sign because he does not want to follow the Lord! We see the extent of his disobedience and rebellion in that he set up altars to other gods – even sacrificing his own son to Moloch. He put other altars in the Temple and finally closed the Temple doors. The darkness and gloom that came upon Judah was because of the rebellion and disobedience of King Ahaz – it was a deep spiritual darkness.
And yet, the Lord did not give up on His people: He gave the sign of the child – the very sign He gave to Adam & Eve and to Abraham. The light that shone in the darkness of sin and rebellion was the promise of the child; that promise is what we celebrate at Christmas, the birth of Jesus. Today, we too feel the spiritual darkness of our times – even as in Victoria the “Change or Suppression Bill” has passed through the Lower house. It appears to be a law that will dictate who we can or can’t pray for, what advice we can or can’t give people – especially children who wish to change their gender – and so by social and political pressure, as certain causes and cancel culture dictate, to influence what we say and believe.
And yet, even in the darkness a light shines, a light of hope and comfort, that is the light of the Gospel. Jesus is Lord and King and He will preserve for Himself a people and He calls us to shine that light brightly in the darkness of our society. We are not victims of oppression but soldiers of the Cross in the battle of the kingdoms. The Lord’s promises stand firm in Jesus Christ. So celebrate Christmas with JOY and HOPE. Pastor Alan
Sunday 13th December 2020
Christmas has not always been my favourite time of the year. Having spent many years overseas, Christmas was often a time of isolation as families enjoyed family get-togethers while we simply went home. But I had to learn that the joy of Christmas was not tied to my circumstances and how I might feel, but to Gospel truths! Christmas is not simply remembering and celebrating the historical event of the birth of the Christ-Child. The celebrating of Christmas is also a Faith event.
The joy of Christmas is the sense of awe and amazement that Jesus being born a helpless baby in Bethlehem was for me! Jesus, Who though God, did not hold on to the glory of God in heaven but emptied Himself of all reputation, being born a helpless infant in disreputable circumstances. He took on the human nature to die on the Cross for me; a sinner, one who was an enemy of God in my rebellion against the Creator.
God reached out through Adam & Eve, and then Abraham & Sarah, and also Mary with the Promise of the Saviour, the Promised Child. That promise of the coming Child from the Garden of Eden to the stable in Bethlehem was for me; that I might be saved and reconciled to God the Father through Repentance and Faith in Jesus as my Lord and Saviour for the forgiveness of sins.
That gives Christmas a whole new perspective – a sense of joy and amazement regardless of my circumstances. The ‘spirit of Christmas’ tries to capture this amazing Gospel truth with the lights, giving of presents, celebrations, Christmas cheer and even in Santa Claus – the benevolent gift giver. But Christmas only makes sense through the eyes of Faith.
Without faith there is no sense of amazement that God would take on the human nature to be born as a baby. Without faith, Christmas celebrations become empty, an illusion of Christmas cheer that is fleeting just for the season; whereas the true joy of Christmas is for eternity! That is why Christmas is a great and natural opportunity to tell the Gospel: the real reason for the season! As we prepare for Christmas this year, I pray that you may find the real joy of Christmas that you can have whatever your circumstances. Pastor Alan
Sunday 6th December 2020
A question that is regularly asked is this, “If God is so mighty and loving why is there so much suffering in the world; what is God doing about it?” How could God let all these terrible things happen? The question, “Why?” so quickly spills from our heart when another tragedy happens, when hurt and pain overwhelm us, and fear dominates us. It is an age old question and a very good question to consider.
To answer it we have to go back to the beginning of the world. Genesis Chapters 1 & 2 tells us that God created the heavens and the earth and that it was very good! And we see that God created Adam & Eve in a special way, with whom He could have a relationship. They walked together in the cool of the day enjoying a special friendship. So what happened? Well, Chapter 3 tells us that Adam & Eve, thinking that they had the right to be equal to God, rebelled against the Kingship of God as Creator.
The consequence was a separation in relationship. Death tore apart the perfect relationships. Now, there was fear, shame and guilt. Instead of a loving, sharing and harmonious relationship, people became selfish, fearful and hurtful, seeking their own desires above consideration for others. Consequently, the suffering in the world is a result of people making bad and hurtful decisions that hurt others and even themselves. So what is God doing about it?
Immediately after Adam & Eve rebelled God sought them out and gave the promise of a Saviour – a Saviour Who would restore the friendship and bring in a new Kingdom of Love, Peace and Unity. That Saviour is Jesus Christ, born in a manger to die on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins so that we would be reconciled to God the Creator. That is the story of Christmas. Pastor Alan
Sunday 29th November 2020
“Who are you?” was a question we considered last week. If you read carefully through Ephesians 1:3-14, you can read about the spiritual blessings we have in Christ:
*we are blessed with Christ *we are chosen in Christ *we are loved by God
*predestined by Him to the praise of His glorious grace *we are adopted by God
*He has lavished His grace upon us *we have redemption through Christ’s blood
*we have been forgiven of our trespasses *He has made known to us the mystery of His will
*we are under the plan of God *we are united with Christ *we have obtained an inheritance in Christ
*God is working out all things for us according to His purpose and will
*we have been made for the praise of His glory
*we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit Who is the guarantee that we will receive our spiritual inheritance.
What does this list of spiritual blessings tell us? It tells us that we are lavishly loved and wonderfully precious to our Heavenly Father. What a glorious confirmation of identity! “Who am I?” I am a child of God, His beloved, a new creation in Christ!!! Whenever the evil one shoots one of his flaming arrows of doubt and temptation into your heart – remember, “I am a Child of God, His Beloved, a new Creation in Christ.” That is the reference point from which we view the world and all of life. It reminds us of the words of Paul in Romans 8, “If God is for us who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” Let us live each day in the knowledge and conviction: I am the Lord’s Beloved! Pastor Alan
Sunday 22nd November 2020
The most important question in life and death is, “Who do you say Jesus is?” Throughout history and even today there have been many answers. Some say that Jesus is the great Liberator; He has come to set us free from political oppression. Yet others would say that he was a historical figure – a good teacher, a swell bloke, made a lot of good sense. There are those who say that Jesus was a man to be pitied; just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and got himself crucified. And others say, Jesus is the Fixer for your life; if you have a problem go to Jesus who can fix all your problems. Then there is the Jesus that will bring you prosperity; just ask and you will receive, the Jesus who brings a healthy and wealthy life; you just have to have enough faith.
The sad thing is that a lot of the wrong teachings about Jesus have come through the church, the church losing the clear understanding of Jesus being the Lord’s Messiah whose task it was to reconcile sinful man to the Holy God through repentance for the forgiveness of sins. It is so easy to look to Jesus to fit your desires rather than the Father’s desires – and that was the clash between Peter and Jesus! Peter declared that ‘Jesus was the Christ’, the Son of God to bring in the Kingdom of God. And when Jesus explained that He must suffer and die and rise again to fulfil that task as Messiah, Peter baulked and began to rebuke Jesus – No! No! No! That will never happen! (because his expectation of the Messiah was to lead the people of Israel into political freedom). Jesus gives Peter a ‘you beaut what for’ – He very sternly rebukes Peter, “Get behind Me Satan!”, because in denying Jesus as the Suffering Messiah, Peter was denying the very work of Jesus as the Messiah! It was the desert temptation all over again – to avoid the suffering and death on the Cross.
Well, who do you say Jesus is? Have you unwittingly lost perspective of His work of Salvation, as you want Him to fill your perceived needs and desires? Will Jesus need to say to us the words, “Get behind me Satan!” when we deny His work as Saviour? Our greatest need is to be reconciled to the Lord God whose will it was that Jesus suffer and die on the Cross to pay for our sins, to make us right with Him. Let’s praise Him for that! Pastor Alan
Sunday 15th November 2020
Sometimes we “just don’t get it!” And there are usually two reasons for that. Sometimes we don’t get it because we have already made up our mind. Consequently, you can’t see another person’s point of view but will simply filter their information through your pre-determined view. We see that with the elections in America at the moment; the Republican and Democrat followers have already made up their mind about how bad the other candidate is so that they simply cannot say or allow for anything good!
The other reason for “not getting it” is confusion; you are not ‘on the same page’ with the other person who is speaking. Sometimes you still need to process and work it through to understand the point that they are making.
We find these two “don’t get it” reasons at work here with Jesus as He addresses two different groups. The Pharisees had already made up their minds that Jesus was not the Messiah and got His power from the demon world (Mark 3:22). Their asking for a further sign for Jesus to prove Himself as the Messiah was not in pursuit of the truth; rather just to tempt Jesus to discredit Himself by using His messianic powers for Himself (like Satan in the Desert Temptation). This utter rejection of Jesus was the drawing of the battle line and the beginning of the journey of Jesus to the Cross.
The Disciples, however, are confused. Jesus warns them about the leaven (evil teaching) of the Pharisees and they are worried about who forgot to bring the lunch (leaven = bread)! Teaching through the use of questions, Jesus brings them to a further understanding about Himself as the Messiah as He prepares them for His dying on the Cross.
What kind of “just don’t get it” are you busy with today? The kind of having made up your mind so you are pushing your own agenda and own desires so that you cannot even hear what the other person is saying? Or the kind that seeks to learn the truth further, with a desire to follow Jesus? Pastor Alan
Sunday 8th November 2020
Compassion is to feel the hurts, needs and suffering of others, with the desire to help. Jesus said to His Disciples that He had compassion for the Gentile crowd. He wanted to help them in their need; to be their Saviour as well as the Messiah to the Jews. The Apostle Paul teaches that Jesus has broken down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile – there is only One people of God; those who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
Compassion is an attribute of God that motivates Him to reach down in Jesus Christ through time and history to sinners, to call them to repentance and faith. Such is the compassion of the Lord that He was willing to sacrifice His Only Innocent Son to pay for your sins and mine to reconcile us to Himself. The Disciples were not impressed with Jesus when He declared His compassion on the Gentiles; the Messiah was for the Jews! Later Peter had a hard time going to the house of Cornelius with the Gospel. It took the rejection and abuse of the Jews in the synagogue for Paul to be a missionary to the Gentiles.
What about us? Are we compassionate? Do we see the needs of others and have a desire to help them as the Lord has helped us? Or do we still wrestle with prejudices of race, class and age? If we are, let us look to Jesus, and grow hearts of love and compassion in His love and compassion for us. Pastor Alan
Sunday 1st November 2020
Today has been allocated as the “International Day Prayer for the Persecuted” conducted by Open Doors Ministry. A prayer booklet has been distributed to help to direct our prayers. But how are we to pray for the persecuted? Simply that God should rescue and relieve them of suffering? Or is there a deeper Biblical approach to persecution? The martyred souls under the throne in Revelation 6 give us some direction in this:
They cry out to God to avenge the blood of the martyrs, but He tells them to wait a little longer until the number He has set for those being martyred has reached completion. Persecution is part of the Christian life. It is not an anomaly or accident, but a consequence of the battle between the kingdoms and part of the Lord’s plan of salvation. Keeping this in mind, below is a way that we can pray for the persecuted:
Firstly, by praising the Sovereign Lord as Holy and True Who is working out His plan of salvation on earth in Jesus Christ.
Secondly, that Kingdom of God may be built up in the battle of the kingdoms, being thankful for being counted worthy to suffer for the Name of Christ Jesus; and that our suffering may be used by the Lord to call people to faith.
Thirdly, that the Lord would provide comfort, strength, hope and protection for our Brothers and Sisters as they face the persecution; that they may not give up the faith but remain steadfast in Him.
Fourthly, that the Lord may be merciful to the persecutors and bring them to faith in Christ, as they see the faith of those whom they persecute.
Fifthly, that the Lord God may bring Justice and Righteousness to the earth; that He will come soon in Judgement and avenge the blood of the martyrs, so that every injustice may be addressed and that all may see the Holiness of the Lord God Almighty.
Sixthly, that we pray for the Return of Jesus on the Clouds, to bring in the new heavens and the new earth; where death will be no more, neither shall be mourning nor crying, nor pain anymore; for Behold the Lord has made everything new.
May the Lord bring His blessing and grace in advancing His kingdom as we pray for our persecuted Brothers and Sisters in the Lord. Pastor Alan
Sunday 25th October 2020
Reflecting on life can be a painful experience. How David must have cringed when he remembered running for his life from King Saul and seeking refuge with the enemy Philistine King! What was he thinking? Fear drives us to some unthinkable things! And yet, the Lord had anointed David as the next King of Israel through Samuel the prophet. How would God keep His promise when David was “committing suicide”? With David acting as a madman, the Lord closed the eyes of the Philistine King so he would dismiss David as being inconsequential. David recognised that this “blindness” was from the hand of the Lord and he gives God all the praise for his deliverance.
Today, we too can do some really dumb and even sinful things! Most of us will have memories that cause us shame and embarrassment, regrets that we wish had never happened. But remember this: God preserved David so that Jesus the Great King Who never failed could be born at Bethlehem to deliver His people once-for-all-time on the Cross. When we repent and believe in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, He wipes our slate of sin clean – just as if we had never sinned nor been a sinner! Now we are the Lord’s beloved and under the refuge of His provision and protection. Nobody can rattle the skeletons in our closet when we have repented of them and given them to the Lord in Christ Jesus. No wonder David was so full of praise as he calls out to us, “O taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”
This coming Sunday we plan to literally taste and see that the Lord is good as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. In the Lord’s Supper we are affirmed in the Love and Faithfulness of the Lord, coming in its fullness in Jesus Christ. Let us live each day praising the Lord for His goodness to us in Jesus Christ! Pastor Alan
Sunday 18th October 2020
The quest for the ‘Fountain of Youth’ has long been the topic of many a myth, legend and movie! Like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, searching for the lost chalice from the Last Supper. Drinking from this chalice or from the fountain of Youth would (supposedly) give one healing and permanent life. The quest for the Fountain of Youth is not just one of myth or movies, however, but it is also constantly pursued in our very own culture! From facial creams that will retain your youthful looks, to exercises and supplements that will keep age at bay, through to cryonics (freezing of people) where there is a hope for a cure to the aging of life.
While the desire for permanent life is an inbuilt desire of man, being made in the image of God, the concept of the Fountain of Youth itself is based on a lie. Sin flatters mankind, saying that the concept of the Fountain of Youth is achievable: millions of dollars are being spent on it in its various forms! However, the Bible says that the span of a man’s life is but three score and ten (and maybe a few more). Now, in the Gospel the Lord does bring to us eternal life! Not that this life on earth will continue on forever, for we will all still die, but a renewed life in Jesus in the Glory of Heaven that begins while living in Him on earth.
Sin leads people into self-deception like the Fountain of Youth. The greatest self-deception is that it is alright to live without the Lord; that God is not relevant. Psalm 36 teaches us that living without the Lord, in rejecting His Holy standards for life, leads one to a life enslaved by evil. More than that, it leads one to embrace evil as being right and good. David teaches that as Creator, the Lord sets the standards of what is right and wrong – it is a standard that comes from His very character as God. Therefore it is a standard that is unchangeable and not only does God set the standard but He also judges all by that standard! More than that, in the preciousness of the steadfast love of the Lord He also saves His people from judgement, to eternal life, by the Death of Jesus on the Cross, so that we may now live under His protection, provision and satisfaction! What a wonderful way to live! What Good News there is to share about God’s steadfast love in Christ Jesus! Who needs to pursue the Fountain of Youth when God provides the Fountain of Life! Pastor Alan
Sunday 11th October 2020
Who is in charge here? Well it depends on whom you talk to. Many will say that they are! Consider some of the commercials over time, for example: Coke – ‘reality is what you want it to be’; Snickers – ‘be what you want to be, do what you want to do’. In motivational courses, you are to set your own goals and then go and achieve them. Now it is not wrong to plan and have goals – it is part of good stewardship. But James reminds us about the businessmen who plan to go to such and such a city and make a profit, and leave God out of their plans. Big mistake! Because the Lord reigns!
(1) He is more powerful than all the forces of men and evil, as we see with the Tower of Babel; through the Tower (as a staircase to heaven) they challenged God to come down and meet with them as equals. God simply reached down and confused their language and all their bravado was gone! They were scattered over the face of the earth.
(2) And, the Lord God also has the power to direct the intentions of evil to bring about His grace and Salvation. Think of Joseph and the murderous intent of his brothers, which the Lord directed so Joseph could become Prime Minister of Egypt and bring his family to live in Goshen to grow into the mighty nation of Israel.
Now what does that mean for us?
Firstly, that we are to praise the Lord as the God Who reigns over all creation.
Secondly, we are to acknowledge God in all our plans and actions, “the Lord willing”.
Thirdly, we are not to be afraid of causes, and evil intents, of movements and people. They will rise and fall, and be directed as means of bringing God’s grace to bear.
Fourthly, we are to bring the Gospel and Lordship of Christ to bear in all areas of life.
Fifthly, we are to live a life of joy and thanksgiving to the Lord! This is His world and we are His people! So let us live with joy and assurance as people of the Lord Who reigns! Pastor Alan
Sunday 4th October 2020
The first thing that has to happen before you can help someone is that they need to admit that they have a problem. We all admit that there is ‘something wrong’ in the world, and we have plenty examples of it: violence and abuse, fighting and terrorism, debt and financial problems, cheating and corruption, terminal sickness and Covid-19 virus. In many ways it is a miserable world we live in.
What we don’t all agree on is the cause of this misery. The Bible teaches that the reason for the misery in the world is SIN. God created the world perfect, but Adam & Eve rebelled against God as Creator and brought the anger and judgement of God on the world. We know what God requires through His Law, the Ten Commandments: Love God above everything else and love your neighbour as yourself. In sin, we are alienated from God and stand on the precipice of the abyss of hell – eternity under the anger and judgement of God. But how can we escape this and return to the favour of God?
Many religions in the quest for the favour of the gods bring sacrifices or present a ‘good life’. But the Bible is very clear that we as people are totally inadequate to satisfy the Justice of God. Everything we do just makes matters worse! Is there no way to return to God’s favour? If not through sacrifices or good works that we offer or do, then how?
Through God! God Himself meets the requirements of His justice through His Son Jesus Christ – Jesus Who is able to take our place in His humanity and Who has the power to bear the agony of God’s anger and judgement in His being God (Deity).
However, people first have to see that they have a problem, that they are sinners before a Holy Creator God, and then confess they are sinners and deserve God’s anger and Judgement of Hell, turning to Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, their sins forgiven by His death on the Cross. That is the work of the Gospel, to show the reality and consequences of our sin and the need for Jesus as our Lord and Saviour through the call to Repent and Believe. May the Lord be pleased to use us to bring this Good News of the Gospel to our community! Pastor Alan
Sunday 27th September 2020
“It’s not FAIR!” is a common cry in the playground, classroom and home. Even as adults we easily complain and feel we have been wronged. There is an inbuilt sense of justice, an inbuilt sense of right and wrong in our person that is expressed through the conscience. Today many people complain about the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions; a feeling of resentment is rising as people simply ignore or shun the restrictions and do their own thing. There is a feeling that our personal rights are being violated: “It’s not FAIR!”
But God created us to live together in communities: as marrieds, families, churches, neighbourhoods, states and countries. We are not simply ‘individuals’ living side by side. God’s Ten Commandments reflect this as Jesus summarised them, “Love God with all your person and love your neighbour as yourself”. Jesus also illustrated this in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Living together in communities calls us to uphold the ‘rights’ of one another. In our modern Western culture, how much do we actually care about the ‘rights’ of the other person? With the strong promotion of individualism – I deserve it! – do we think outside our own little bubble? Cancel culture and identity politics indulge in a victim mentality making any opposition to their position as the oppressor and enemy – therefore those who disagree do not have rights except to be made to submit or be destroyed.
But let’s come down to the nitty gritty of life. Do we care when we know domestic violence is happening next door? Do we care when women are forced into prostitution? Do we care when minorities are being oppressed? Do we care when children are being groomed by predators over the internet? Do we care when children are kidnapped and made to do slave labour? Do we care when thousands of babies are murdered in abortion in our country each year? Do we cry out, “It’s not fair!” and attempt to do something to help bring about justice as the Lord brings it to our notice in life? To be sure, to try to address every injustice issue is simply overwhelming.
But what about if we prayed to the Lord and asked Him what He is calling us to do to help bring His justice into the world? God hears the cry of the orphan and the widow, the alien and the poor (Zechariah 7:8-10). Justice is part of God’s character; it is also to be part of our character as Christians – to love our neighbours as ourselves; to uphold their ‘rights’. What justice cause is the Lord calling you to support? Pastor Alan
Sunday 13th September 2020
Church people are a curious breed. They have the privilege of being brought up in the things of the Lord. They have the privilege of receiving the grace and promises of God, of knowing the Word of God, belonging to the people of God, of being encouraged weekly through the church services and the ministries of the church. Let’s face it – they have a rich inheritance! This inheritance which we enjoy in part today while living on earth, will come into its fullness when Jesus Returns at the end of Time, when He will make everything new.
The question is, “What are we doing with this inheritance?”. Do we love the community of the church, being active in the ministries of the church, to the extent that we see it as ‘our’ church? In the movie series “God is not Dead”, the pastor of the church saw it as ‘my church’ and the dream he had for it. But God took the church away through a fire and community opposition to teach him that it is the Lord’s church. The Gospel is about God’s love for a sinful mankind through the sending of His Son Jesus to be our Lord and Saviour. Yet how often do we slide into thinking of the church as ‘our’ church – what we want it to do for us; rather than delighting in our Gospel inheritance from the Father and what He wants to do with it. Just observe the way we talk and make decisions.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son is about two lost sons; a sinner who left for a foreign land, repented, and returned, AND, the other lost son who stayed, also considering his father as good as dead as he can’t wait for father to die so that he can take over the farm and run it his way. The younger represented the sinners and tax-collectors while the older son represented the Scribes and Pharisees. Both lost, holding the Father in contempt, eager to live life in their own way. Both receiving the amazing love of the Father; yet with quite different responses. As a member of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, how do you view your Gospel inheritance? Pastor Alan
Sunday 6th September 2020
One of the greatest privileges in life, besides being a husband, is being a father. The birth of our first child was a life-changing event! A bit of a shock too as it dawned on me that this little bundle of life was totally dependent on us for life itself. The other significant thought was that as a father, I had a great influence on how this child would turn out like when she grew up! And so, discipline and values became focused on ‘what kind of adult did I desire my child to be?’ As a Christian I had the Word of God as my standard, but I (and my wife) had to fill in the details. It was my desire as a father that our children would grow up to be independent, confident Christians – able to make good life choices and be a credit to their God, family and country. By God’s grace I am proud of each one of the children He has gifted to me and the privilege I had to be part of their upbringing.
The most significant influence in my life as father is my Heavenly Father. Psalm 103:13-14 says, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” This love and compassion of God the Father is so wonderfully illustrated in the Parable of the Lost Son in Luke 15. What love in giving his child over to his own foolishness because he had to learn the lessons of life for himself. What hope as he waited at the front gate every day anticipating that his son would come to his senses and come home. What compassion when he ran out to meet his son and embraced him in his filth and all. What mercy and forgiveness when he restored his lost son to his place as son in the household with a celebration, even though the son had denied his sonship. Knowing that God the Father has loved me like this, I am empowered to be a loving, hopeful, compassionate and forgiving father. Aware of my own inadequacies, weaknesses and mistakes, I pray that my children may know even just a smidgeon of God the Father’s love in my love for them; that would bring me tremendous joy. What about you? Pastor Alan
Sunday 30th August 2020
Deafness is so isolating. When we get older and harder of hearing, our world can become quite small; Bible study and church become such an effort! It is not so much that we can’t hear the voice, but more that you cannot understand the words that are being spoken. And when you are hard of hearing, people seem to ignore you – it is too much effort for them to try to communicate with you. Or they yell at you as if you are simple minded. Your world can be a very small place indeed.
Add to that in the New Testament times the Pharisees considered disabled people to be unclean and under the judgement of God because of someone’s sin (see John 9:2).
In Mark 7, friends or family bring a man who is deaf and mute to Jesus for healing. They implore Jesus to lay hands on him. But Jesus goes much further He compassionately deals with him in private giving him His full attention and communicating on his level. He speaks and the man is healed! His ears are opened and his tongue loosed. Jesus tells them not to say anything about his healing, but he is too pumped up to keep his mouth shut – imagine being able to speak for the first time! You would be experimenting with all the different sounds, and saying words. The family and friends would be ecstatic! Laughing and speaking nineteen to a dozen!
And then a very pertinent response is made: ‘He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’ Mark draws us back to Isaiah 35 where the coming of the Messiah would bring salvation to Israel and the world, evidenced by the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, the lame leaping and the mute singing for joy.
Where are you at today? Do you come to church with a sense of joy and anticipation? Are you eager to hear the Word of the Lord through the songs, Bible Readings and sermons? Is your heart full of thankfulness, bursting to be expressed in song? Can you ‘not shut up’ about the amazing grace of salvation in your life? Can you say, ‘He has done all things well?’ and find your joy in the Lord even in these trying and strange times of Covid-19? These people were so excited about physical healing that they couldn’t help but rave about it! How much more for us with the spiritual healing of salvation? Pastor Alan