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
Sunday 5th June 2022 : I will build My Church
On the Church Calendar, today is celebrated by Christians as Pentecost Sunday – the day when Jesus poured out His promised Holy Spirit and Peter stood up and addressed the crowd, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth … Whom you crucified and killed…” Upon which the people convicted of their sin cried out, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” And so, the New Testament Church was born, the church that Jesus promised to build in Matthew 16:18. What does this church of Christ look like? What makes the church?
Acts 2:42 teaches us that there are four pillars upon which the church is built:
Firstly, it is a believing church; made up of those who have repented and follow Jesus in faith and have the Holy Spirt living in their hearts.
Secondly, it is a teaching church; the Bible being the foundation and guide for all faith and life.
Thirdly, it is a fellowshipping church; as followers of Jesus, we have a special bond of unity in the Holy Spirit as the Body of Christ, a bond of love that is expressed in the Lord’s Supper.
Fourthly, it is a praying church; that recognises it is the church of God and seeks His blessing and grace.
However, the letters to the churches in Revelation teach us that not all churches are truly churches of Christ. Take Sardis that had a reputation for being an alive and active church yet was dead to the Lord; Jesus was about to take away their lamp stand. The church is not about success or programmes or popularity; rather it is about the Gospel! The four pillars of (1) Faith & Spirit, (2) Bible teaching, (3) Fellowship and (4) Prayer make up the Church that Jesus built at Pentecost as it embodies the Gospel. As we celebrate Lord’s Supper together this morning, let us express this incredible joy and privilege of belonging to the New Testament Church that Christ built! Pastor Alan
Sunday 22nd May 2022 : Preparing a Place For You
Ascension Day is the often forgotten sister of the church calendar. We definitely remember Easter and Christmas, but Ascension Day and Pentecost are easily overlooked. And yet, the Ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven is an important event in salvation. It is part of the steps of the Exaltation of Jesus (His Resurrection, Ascension, Rule at the Father’s right hand, Return in Judgment). In His Ascension into heaven, Jesus was seated in victory and honour at the right hand of the Father, crowned with the Name above all names, the name of “Lord”, to whom all creatures shall bow. Jesus went into heaven in His glorified and exalted Body, and now sits at the right hand of God the Father in our glorified humanity. And that is a guarantee that one day we too shall be with Him in the glory of Heaven!
Without the Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus into heaven, there would be no place prepared for us, AND, there would be NO HOPE for the future! But Jesus has indeed been raised from the dead and has ascended into heaven, going there to prepare a place for us. This is our comfort as we are often confused and dismayed in life. When we wrestle with troubled hearts and minds, the Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 8:18 that the sufferings of this life are not worth comparing to the glory of heaven. Life on earth is but a blink of an eye compared to glory in eternity. In a confusing, ever changing, often miserable world, our hope is that Jesus has gone on before us into the glory of heaven, and is preparing a place for us and all who believe in Him as Lord and Saviour. When you have those times of feeling overwhelmed, forgotten, disappointed, deeply hurt, and even at times hopeless, remember that Jesus is in heaven preparing a place for you so that you might be where He is. That is worth celebrating! Pastor Alan
Sunday 15th May 2022 : God upon His Throne
Some five hundred years ago, John Calvin, a reformation forefather observed that there were three things that would contribute to the backsliding of a Believer and the Church.
(1) One was a low appreciation of God’s Grace. If we do not have a deep appreciation of God’s Holiness and the utter offence of sin to Him, then we will not have an appreciation of God’s amazing and undeserved grace! Today, generally speaking, there is a lack of respect for authority and of things sacred. Everything is permissible, and authority is something to be disregarded. Wrongdoing is considered to be a product of one’s upbringing or simply making a mistake. Accepting responsibility is fast becoming a forgotten virtue. The Law of God that was given to convict us of our sin before the Lord is now ignored, or re-interpreted. Even as Christians it is easy to adopt our modern cultural values. If there is no conviction of sin then, conversely, there is no appreciation of Grace.
(2) The second is a low view of the Bible. The Lord has revealed Himself in nature as Creator and also through the Bible as Redeemer. We cannot know Who God is and what He has done in Christ and is doing for His people if we do not have the Bible. If we no longer believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, His rule for faith and living, then there is no standard of holiness and purity before the Lord. Religion becomes our experience of ‘god’. The Bible merely is a record of man’s search for God, and ‘truth’ is how it affects me. If there is no absolute Truth, how can we be held accountable for our lives before a Holy God?
(3) The third is a low view of the Glory of God. God is all-powerful and sovereign over all things. He is guiding history to His ordained end – the salvation of His people for His glory. All creation was made for the glory of God. Our salvation also is for His glory in our Joy. If we do not believe that God is sovereign and all things are under His hand and power, then we default to fate or being masters of our own destiny. Today, with an emphasis on science and technology, God is being pushed out of the picture. However, if the Lord is not Sovereign and all-powerful, how can He guarantee our salvation? In our modern age, do we, as Christians, give the glory and praise due to God for ‘Who and what He is’ as God?
The guarantee of our salvation is in God being Who He is as Creator and Redeemer, Who has revealed Himself to us through His Word. Let us hold these three virtues with a very high (Biblical) view of God’s Grace, His Word and His Glory, resting in the assurance of our salvation and the praise of His glory. Pastor Alan
Sunday 8th May 2022 : A Mother’s Love
Today is Mother’s Day. For many it is a day where we can show an extra appreciation for Mum and her love for us as a family. There is no more intense love and bonding than a mother with a nursing baby. Mum will get up at any time of night and day to feed her baby, hear and respond to its every cry, cuddle and play with it, clean her baby every time it is dirty, bathing it, and delighting in her baby’s smell. When a baby is born, Mum’s life centres around the needs of her baby.
Now the Lord says that His love is even greater than the intense love and bonding of a mother with her nursing baby, because, while a mother will love her baby intensely, yet she will love imperfectly as she battles with brokenness of sin in her life. There will be times when she is impatient, tired, at the end of her wits, and even forgetful! But the Lord loves perfectly – His commitment and love are perfect.
Israel, in Babylonian Captivity, was ashamed, discouraged and had lost her identity as God’s people. They said, “The Lord has forgotten us, the Lord has abandoned us! How can we worship the Lord in a foreign land when we know that it was our rebellion that brought us here? Why should God remember us?” Why? Because He made a promise to Abraham, “I will be your God and you will be my people, you and your descendants after you.” Again and again, the Lord confirmed His promise, even to the extent of Isaiah prophesying that the Lord will take King Cyrus of the Medes & Persians by the right hand, bringing him to the gates of Babylon to overthrow it and set God’s people free. God’s love is greater, deeper, fiercer and more loyal than even the greatest love of humankind: the love of Mother.
Remember that love of God when you battle with feelings of disillusionment and disappointment, hopelessness and despair, feeling abandoned and forgotten, and confused about your identity. Look to the Lord and His unfailing love. Bask in the glow of His tenderness and compassion. Rest in the comfort of His promises as you see them fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The intensity and depth of the Love of God is seen in the Cross, for there the Lord was willing to give up His Only Innocent Son to make you His own precious possession! What more could you ask for? How much more important could you be? What greater evidence do you need? Pastor Alan
Sunday 1st May 2022 : Christ Begotten; Believers Adopted
Adoption is a unique and beautiful relationship. Adoption is the legal declaration that a child is accepted into another family as if they were born into that family. All legal ties are cut off from the birth family and they are grafted into their adopted family, with all the rights, privileges, responsibilities and inheritance of being a child in that family. It is a new life, a new start and a new status. It is also irrevocable – it cannot be reversed or undone; even the birth certificate is changed to list the adoptive parents as their parents.
The Apostle Paul uses the illustration of Adoption in Romans 8 of the new relationship we have with the Lord as Christians. In Jesus, not only are our sins forgiven, but we have a new status – Children of God. When we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, God the Father declares that we belong to His family by adoption – His commitment to our eternal destiny.
This is no small matter or theological nicety. We have a new status from sinner to saint; from being children of the devil (John 8:44) to being Sons of God. In Christ we belong to the family of God. In Christ we possess security, status, and an inheritance. Jesus, the Son of God, is our Brother and we are co-heirs with Him (Romans 8:16) – whatever is true for Him is now true for us. This sense of belonging, this security of the Father’s love, the glorious inheritance of eternal life, gives us great comfort and joy. We are not on our own; we are not orphans left to fend for ourselves. No, we have family!
An expression of being in God’s family is belonging and being active in the local church. The Lord has designed the local church as an expression of His family, to be a place of comfort, encouragement, help, direction, and worship. We call the church family the “Communion of the Saints”. It is where we have our “family connections”. A new life, a new start, a new status – children of God – are all ours by faith in Jesus. A truly wonderful and amazing relationship! As the Apostle John writes: “How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us that we should be called Children of God; for that is what we are!” Pastor Alan
Sunday 24th April 2022 : The Sweetness of the Word
How do you view the Bible? What role does it have in your life? Is it something you read every day or only when you may remember to? Is it a rule book that makes you feel bad because you just keep breaking the rules?
King David was really excited about the Bible! He thought it was sweeter than even pure honey (with no processing or additives). Why was he so excited about it?
Because the Bible is the Word of God. It reveals Who God is as Creator and Lord, and what He is doing in His plan to save His people in Jesus Christ. It shows us God’s design for creation and His relationship with us. It shows how we got it so wrong in Adam and Eve and why the world is like it is, and what He is doing about it. It shows us how to live for the Lord, and how to live in the Lord and in His strength. It transforms our life as we come into a relationship with the Lord. The Bible gives us wisdom as we see God’s order in life. It gives us discernment as we understand the world around us.
Anyone who reads the Bible can understand the message it brings. It shows us how we are to worship the Lord, and shows the way of the Gospel – how through repentance and faith in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour we come into a restored relationship with the Lord. As the Sunday School song says, “The best book to read is the Bible!” and this is because the Bible is much more than just a book of Laws and Religion. It is God speaking to us, showing His Holiness, Love and Faithfulness. Like a woman eagerly receiving letters from her fiancé anticipating the day of their wedding, so the Bible is God’s love letters to us, revealing His love and promises, looking forward to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Let’s read the Bible eagerly, being affirmed in the Love of God, preparing and living in anticipation of His Return. The Best book to read IS the Bible! Pastor Alan
Sunday 17th April 2022 : He is Risen! Go, Tell the Disciples … and Peter
Many of us struggle with feeling unworthy. There are numerous areas in our lives that we desire to be and do better. It takes maturity to be comfortable in ‘your own skin’. More than that, it takes a sense of identity, knowing who you are and where you belong. At the Resurrection of Jesus, the angel singled out Peter from the other Disciples – Peter who had so emphatically declared his loyalty to Jesus in the Upper Room; Peter who spoke over the top of Jesus when Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him three time before the rooster crows, boldly declaring that even if the other Disciples would desert Jesus, he – Peter – would be prepared even to die for Jesus. A few hours later, however, we find Peter cringing in denial, even on oath, ‘I do not know this man!’ Then Peter went out and wept bitterly! How he had failed the Lord Jesus!
And now, the angel in his message had distinguished Peter from the other Disciples. Did that mean he was now unworthy, that he was considered no longer to be a Disciple of Jesus? How ashamed he must have felt. Peter was indeed unworthy to continue as a Disciple of Jesus in his own strength.
But notice, that distinction of Peter also revealed the infinite love of Jesus. In His death and resurrection, Jesus had paid the price for Peter’s failure. He had removed the guilt of Peter’s sin. Jesus now had a new life for Peter, the life in the Holy Spirit. In the saving and redeeming work of Jesus, Peter the Denier became Peter the Preacher. It was Peter who preached the first Gospel sermon at Pentecost!
You know, we stand there with Peter, denying Jesus after declaring our love for Him. We fail and fall short, often acting out our fears rather than acting with courage. But in Jesus, we who were unworthy in our sin and shame now stand Holy and Blameless before the Almighty God. We who were unworthy in our own efforts have been made worthy by the blood of Jesus. That is the Good News of the Gospel! The joy of the Resurrection! Let us also have joy and celebrate this wonderful Gospel event, the Resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is alive! He is Risen! Pastor Alan
Sunday 10th April 2022 : Behold, your King!
In order for the government to make and widen roads, especially highways, they sometimes have to buy up land from the landholders. If the landholder does not want to sell up his land, the government has the power and authority to ‘compulsorily acquire’ that land and provide compensation. While we might not like it, especially if we are directly affected, that is the authority of the law. Throughout history kings also had the authority to acquire land, labour, men for the army, and all sorts of things.
In the Triumphal Entry, Jesus was revealing Himself as the Messiah-King. He captures the attention of the people by instructing two of His Disciples to go into the next village and simply take a colt (a donkey that has never been ridden) that is tied up there and bring it back to Him. Was this stealing? Actually, no, not at all. Jesus was exercising His right as King, the right of ‘Acquisition’. As King He had the authority to ‘acquire’ possessions from his subjects (1 Samuel Chapter 8). When Jesus sat on the colt, the people remembered how David made his selection of Solomon to succeed him as king known by his riding on King David’s mule (1 Kings 1:33). So, when Jesus sat on the colt on the coats thrown on it by the Disciples, the crowds quickly picked up the kingly expectations.
And spontaneously, there was a right royal welcome on that road into Jerusalem! The chief priests and scribes were indignant and commanded Jesus to stop the singing of ‘Hosanna’ to Him as the King of David! But, in His public declaration as King, Jesus sought to bring about a confrontation with the religious leaders of Israel, in order that he could be tried and executed. It was in His suffering and dying on the Cross that Jesus would do His greatest work as King for His people, giving up His life so that they could have eternal life in Him. As we celebrate Palm Sunday, let us remember and praise the Lord Jesus that, as the Messiah-King, He was willing to lay down His life to win the battle over Satan at the Cross to bring us peace. Pastor Alan
Sunday 3rd April 2022 : Jesus – Hated without Cause
When we consider the war of Russia on Ukraine, we see so much hate and blatant disregard for human life. The Russian President has a goal to re-unite Ukraine to the ‘Russian world’ and appears to be willing to do anything to achieve that goal. This is nothing new. The Sanhedrin had plotted the death of Jesus for years. He was a ‘burr under the saddle’; a religious and political nuisance that threatened their authority and power. So, they schemed up charges against Him. So successful were they with their propaganda that they convinced a crowd that welcomed Jesus as the King David in the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday a few days before, to now scream “Crucify Him!” to Pilate. They also blackmailed Pilate to sentence Jesus to death by crucifixion – even though Pilate as Judge had declared Jesus innocent of any charge. The Sanhedrin were definitely an evil tool of Satan in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. They were determined to get rid of Jesus by whatever means, once-for-all. Now, it is easy for us to look at the Sanhedrin and Putin, shake our heads and ‘tut, tut’ with disapproval, but actually we display the same evil intent in everyday lives! On a very small scale to be sure, but we also have a natural sinful tendency to ‘lord it over others’, turn situations to our advantage; today often by claiming to be a victim.
All praise be to God our Father that He has sent Jesus as the solution to all this hatred and evil, Jesus Who suffered and died on the Cross under the evil intent of the Sanhedrin, so that we could be set free from sin and evil. In suffering and dying on the Cross Jesus claimed victory over sin, Satan and death, rendering them powerless – over Satan, whose personal agenda is to spoil God’s every good gift. By satisfying the Justice of God, Jesus has taken away the power of Satan to accuse us and consequently to have a hold over us. It would be like Ukraine being set free from Russian oppression – free to be Ukrainians. So also, in Jesus Crucified and Resurrected, we have been set free from sin to be the Children of God we were created to be. In humble thankfulness let us consider the suffering of Jesus for our freedom in this time of Lent. Pastor Alan
Sunday 27th March 2022 : Jesus or Barabbas?
In this time of Lent, we especially remember the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of Mark we see the Jewish religious leaders (the Sanhedrin) having Jesus arrested, and holding a kangaroo court with trumped up charges. In the morning they met again, and, fearing the people, they agreed to hand Jesus over to the Roman Governor, Pilate, to be executed by crucifixion. This would make it a Roman issue – in a sense, like Pilate, they wanted to wash their hands of Jesus. However, Pilate did not take their word for it and conducted his own court of investigation, concluding with a verdict declaring the innocence of Jesus: “I find no basis for a charge against this man!” Even though a verdict of innocence had been declared, the Chief Priests continued to press charges against Jesus. Instead of enforcing his verdict as Judge and closing the court using his soldiers to move the people on, Pilate became an advocate, asking Jesus if He had any answer to make. Jesus remained silent because there was no case to answer – the Roman Court had just morphed into a kangaroo court.
Pilate had discerned that the Chief Priests were motivated by envy – they simply wanted Jesus out of the picture so their own authority could be restored – so Pilate thought he could play the chief priests against the people of whom they were afraid. When the crowd asked for the customary releasing a prisoner at the Passover Feast, Pilate offered the crowd to choose whether to release Jesus or Barabbas. Surely the crowd would choose Jesus and they could all go home. But that back-fired as the crowds demanded Barabbas instead, resulting in Pilate treating Jesus as a criminal by having him flogged and handing him over to be crucified.
What a travesty of justice! But the Apostle Peter tells us in Acts 3, that this travesty of justice was according to the will and purpose of God. Jesus, although innocent, had to be declared a criminal worthy of death so that He could take our place and pay the penalty for our sins on the Cross. The fear of the Sanhedrin and Pilate’s fear led to the corruption of justice which the Lord used to bring salvation! The other point of the passage is that we are faced with a choice: Jesus or Barabbas? But we will let the sermon consider that further this morning. Pastor Alan
Sunday 20th February 2022 : Our Awesome God
Sometimes in life, God feels so far away. And the question that is asked is, “Who moved?” When horrific things happen, like your child being molested or abused, you feel such tremendous anger, and wonder ‘What is a loving God doing allowing this wrecking of the innocence of my child? What did she do to deserve this?!!!’ It may take a while to regain a sense of perspective.
Or, when a loved one is journeying terminal illness, sometimes you question why God leaves them to continue living; they know where they are going. ‘Why don’t you call them home Lord?!’
Life has many “why’s?” Things that make us fearful, or simply just confused and leaving us feeling God is so far away, unconnected to us, even. The way to regain perspective is to see God for Who He is and not what we want Him to be or do. Isaiah is speaking to Judah after he has prophesied their captivity by the Babylonians. And he declares the promises of God that He will call them back and re-settle them in Jerusalem after 70 years of captivity, just as He had taken Israel out of Egypt. And the people say that it can’t happen – Babylon is too strong! And Isaiah says that they think too little of God, and spends a whole chapter to show how God, the all-powerful Creator God, has the power to keep His promises.
Mankind is not in charge of the world – God is! God rules over history, nations and the very creation itself to bring about His loving and saving purposes. When we see God for Who He is, our why’s become ‘for what reason?’ and ‘How will the Lord show His love and grace even in this atrocity?’
The brokenness and corruption of sin is a man-made reality; Satan is determined to spoil all of God’s good gifts. But the Lord provides strength for the weak, comfort for the distressed, reconciliation for the broken, forgiveness for the guilty, justice for the oppressed, assurance for the fearful and guidance for the lost. He picks up those who fall down, and in Jesus He gives us hope for the future. It can all be summed up as, “Fear not for I am with you!” When God feels so far away, remember Who He is, and that He came to us in Jesus so that nothing can separate us from His love, ever! Pastor Alan
Sunday 13th February 2022 : Blind Bartimaeus
What do you want Jesus to do for you? James and John wanted to be elevated to the greatness of power and prestige. They wanted greatness! Blind Bartimaeus wanted to see; he wanted to be whole. What was the difference between them? The Disciples believed in Jesus as the Lord’s Messiah, but they still saw Him as bringing in a political kingdom by leading a revolution against Rome and re-establishing the throne of David in Jerusalem. And they wanted part of that action! After all they had stuck by Jesus for three years now! The Disciples felt entitled.
Blind Bartimaeus, however, came to Jesus in humility. “Please, let me recover my sight?” You are the ‘Son of David’, the Lord’s Messiah; let me be part of Your Kingdom through my healing.
The irony regarding the Disciples is that in their desire for earthly greatness, they were blind to the Kingdom greatness that was already theirs in Christ! John got it later on when he writes in his letter, “How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us that we should be called children of God; for that is what we are!” And Peter when he writes, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession…” How great is that! Our ‘greatness’ is in being in Christ and all the benefits of salvation that comes in Him. The problem with the sense of entitlement (I want to be recognised and I deserve these things) is that it makes you the centre of attention – which is the sin of pride, just like Adam in the Garden eating the forbidden fruit. The beauty of humbleness is that it focuses on Christ and seeks His glory – which is where it should be.
Well, what do you want from Jesus? What do you want from this worship service? Do you come with a sense of ‘entitlement’ and find disappointed expectations – like James and John? Or do you come with the sense of humbleness like Bartimaeus, knowing that Jesus owes you nothing, that it is all grace and nothing but grace? Humbleness expresses itself in praise and glorifying God. Entitlement or humbleness – what do you want from Jesus? Pastor Alan
Sunday 6th February 2022 : Why are you called Christian?
As Christians, being members of the Body of Christ, we are called to continue on the Gospel work of Jesus in the world. We are to ‘confess’ His name. To confess means to openly make known; to declare. We are to be publicly and unashamedly Christian. But how do we confess Jesus as our Lord and Saviour to our children that have entered into same-gender relationships or are in de-facto relationships or just plain ungodly lifestyles? Do we “keep the doors of communication” open at the expense of confessing Jesus? How do we confess Jesus in a society that is increasingly becoming antagonistic to church and God, especially in the light of the Royal Commission on Child Sexual Abuse and the Same-Sex Marriage Debate? Are we willing to make a stand for the Gospel; even to being persecuted for it?
You see, it is not enough to ‘believe’ in Jesus. We need to have FAITH in Jesus: which is to have a sure knowledge, a firm conviction and a deep-rooted assurance that Jesus died for me and has saved me from my sins. True Faith is conviction in action. To confess Christ calls us to be ready in every area of our lives and all our personal relationships to witness for Jesus. As the Apostle Peter writes “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope you have.” (1 Peter 3:15). In other words, we must be ready when the time and situation is right, when the Holy Spirit opens the door. The average person in Australia is not really impressed with many words and packaged witnessing. They look for genuine lifestyles. They will ask, “Is this guy fair dinkum?” And that ‘fair dinkumness’ will be seen in your faith by your practice in relationships. As they say, you need to be seen to ‘walk the talk’. Outreach programmes are very useful tools but must not be a substitute for personal relationships, where the genuineness of your faith will be tested! Jesus calls us to continue His work of the Gospel on earth. Not all are called to be evangelists, but each and every one of us is called to confess Jesus, to witness to what we believe and cherish, to bubble forth our love for Jesus – a living witness ready for the openings the Holy Spirit provides and making the most of every opportunity (Colossians 4:5). Pastor Alan
Sunday 30th January 2022 : The Lord’s Supper
Lord’s Supper is planned to be commemorated this coming Sunday 6th February. The Lord’s Supper is the New Testament sign of God’s salvation as it fulfils the Old Testament Passover Feast. The Passover commemorated the Lord’s Angel of Death passing over the households where the blood of the Lamb, that had been roasted and eaten, had been put on the door frames. This was part of the Exodus from Egypt where the Lord delivered the Hebrews from slavery to become His people under His promise and care. Jesus is the Passover Lamb, and His blood was shed on the Cross so that the Lord’s anger and Judgement would Pass-over our sins. Jesus satisfied God’s Justice and removed our guilt by His death on the Cross, and so we have received the Lord’s forgiveness and have been reconciled to Him by adoption as His children. In His Resurrection we have received the new life in Christ – now, with renewed hearts and the Holy Spirit living in us, and, in the future, when we will receive our resurrected bodies and dwell with the Lord in the glory of heaven.
The Lord in His kindness, and condescending to our frailty, has gifted to us this Holy Sacrament for the reassurance and strengthening of our faith – something we can see, feel, touch and taste. As we eat of the bread and drink of the cup, we are reminded of the Body of Jesus broken on the Cross, and His blood shed to pay for our sins. Jesus did this for me, a rebellious sinner! It reminds us that God the Father loved us so much He was willing to give the ultimate sacrifice – Himself through His Innocent Son. What amazing, impossible grace; wretched sinners reconciled to the Holy, Almighty, Majestic Lord!
The Lord’s Supper also celebrates our oneness as the Body of Christ, a unique relationship of faith, bound together by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in each of our hearts, a relationship that transcends and yet fulfils every other relationship. It reminds us as a church that we are not simply an organisation of like-minded people, but a spiritual entity in Christ.
When you put all these things together, you realise that Lord’s Supper can never simply be a religious ritual or empty tradition. The celebration of the Lord’s Supper is a spiritual event – the Gospel expressed through physical means. As such it is unique, to be cherished, experienced and gratefully accepted. As we come to the Table next Sunday, let us do so with conviction, reverence and joy. The Father in His love crucified His Son on the Cross and raised Him from the Dead for each of us – so now I am His child, under His care and promises. Let us celebrate the Gospel that is real in our own lives by repentance, faith and forgiveness. Pastor Alan
Sunday 23rd January 2022 : Love the Lord
This morning we will witness Matt & Brodie declaring their love for Jesus and their desire to live for Him. We will also witness and participate in the Baptism of Scarlette, Alexia, and Elijah. Baptism, God’s sign of the promise to be our God and we to be His people with our children. Having publicly declared their faith, Matt & Brodie have made a stand for the Lord. The question is, `How do their and their family remain standing firm in their faith?’
That was the question Moses was addressing with the Israelites on the banks of the Jordan River as they were about to go in and conquer the Canaanite nations to possess Canaan as God’s Promised Land. In one sense it was very simple, “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and strength” As you journey through life, keep your focus on the Lord and His Word.
Firstly, we need to understand the impossible, amazing love of God, Who reached out to us in love through His promises fulfilled in Christ, and now calls us to respond by loving Him back – a relationship.
Secondly, to respond in love by repentance and faith – Yes, Jesus, I love you and desire to live for you.
Thirdly, to express that love for Jesus with an intentional commitment to follow in the Lord’s ways. It is like being married, making an intentional commitment to love for life, through all circumstances. A good marriage takes effort. Make no effort and the marriage relationship crumbles to estrangement.
Fourthly, instruct your children in the ways of the Lord so that they may receive their spiritual inheritance – the Blessings of being under the Heavenly Father’s love, care and protection. Again, we are called to do so intentionally; Moses instructs us as parents to pierce their hearts with the Word of God; to equip them for the spiritual battle so that they too may stand firm in the faith.
Now, some argue that our children should be able to make up their own minds and they shouldn’t be brainwashed by their parents. That is mischievous at best and of evil intent at worst. Children are easily influenced and come under many influences – if not their parents, it will be someone else. Note how Moses instructs us to teach our children the commands of the Lord diligently! Why? Because they are under His promise and because God’s ways are always the best ways.
This morning, let us again delight in the love of God in Christ that has come to us and our children! Pastor Alan
Sunday 16th January 2022 : The Lord Reigns
Phew! What a week it has been. China with whole cities in lockdown. Russia with a large military build-up on the Ukraine border but diplomatically insisting it is not going to invade. The debacle over an international tennis player and his visa status with regard to Covid-19. A Government announcement that you will be fined for not reporting a positive Rapid Antigen Test that you can’t take because they are not available. Covid infections rapidly increasing. National Cabinet emergency meetings to discuss shortening isolation times because there is a transport driver shortage resulting in fairly empty supermarket shelves. To be sure, such uncertainty, changeableness, lack of security can make us feel stressed, anxious and even fearful. As human beings, we naturally desire security!
Jesus said, I tell you truth, do not worry, who by worrying can add a single hour to his life? But seek first the Kingdom of God… What is Jesus saying? God is in control! Our Heavenly Father is ruling over all creation for His saving purposes. You want certainty, steadfastness and security? They are all yours in the Lord God. He created the heavens and the earth and rules over it; directing history to bring about His Promises. He brings and withholds the rain and makes the sun to rise and set. He raises up and breaks down kingdoms and governments. Nothing is outside His purpose and will. That is certainty! He came to us, in Jesus Christ, to call us to Repentance and Faith that we might be called Children of God being under His Fatherly care and co-heirs with Christ – that is security! God is in control, bringing about His Promises – that is steadfastness. And there it is! All that we are seeking to feel loved, secure, and confident.
So why do we still worry, feel anxious and fearful? Because we unwittingly let Satan tempt us with his lies that we need to be control – anxiety comes from not feeling in control. We know and believe that God is ruling over the universe; that He has proven His love, faithfulness and power in Jesus Christ, that our future of heaven is guaranteed in Christ, and yet we feel anxious and fearful – why the disconnect? The bridge between our `feelings’ and our faith is TRUST. This morning the Lord calls you to TRUST Him. Like a boy feels secure holding his father’s hand in a large crowd, so we are called to be secure by holding on to the Father’s hand in the uncertainty of everyday life. Will you? Life in this world looks very different when holding on to the Father’s hand. Pastor Alan
Sunday 9th January 2022 : Elders; Christ’s Under-shepherds
Biblically, the Office of Elder is a unique appointment. There is a temptation to see the work of an Elder as administrating the ministries of the church. But it is actually very different from being administrators of an organisation. The difference being that the Office of Elder is a Divine (by God) appointment; it is a spiritual appointment over the spiritual Body of Christ. Let me explain.
Firstly, it is a Divine Calling. Men are called by God to serve as Elders. We use the pattern in Acts 6:1-6 for discerning the mind of the Holy Spirit through the vote of the congregation. Acts 20:28, tells us that the Holy Spirit has made Elders overseers, to care for the Church of God. 1 Peter 5:1-4 tells us that Elders are to shepherd the flock of God…which He has entrusted to their care.
Secondly, it is a Divine Task. The Elders are called to “shepherd” the flock of God. Their business is about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, preaching and teaching the Word of God for growth in faith and calling to Repentance and Faith. Elders are `Under-shepherds’ serving on behalf of the Great Shepherd – Jesus Christ. They serve with the authority of Christ through His Word and by the guidance of His Holy Spirit.
Thirdly, it has a Divine Accountability. The Elders are not first and foremost accountable to the congregation. They are not like politicians representing and being answerable to their constituency. Quite the opposite, Elders represent Jesus (the Great Shepherd, the Head of the Church) and are answerable to Him for their work, the Bible setting out the task. Hebrews 13:17 calls us to obey and submit to the Elders for they keep watch over your souls, as ones having to give an account (to God).
What does this mean for how we view our Elders? It means that the Church belongs to Jesus and everything we do is to advance the Gospel and for His glory, and that the Bible is our guide and standard – whatever we think or feel, do or say. In 1 Timothy 5 we read that the Elders are to be treated with honour, and we should not make frivolous accusations, or gossip against them, requiring the evidence of two or three witnesses (i.e. A serious charge with facts to substantiate the accusation).
Today, Br. Dean Ruddy will be ordained as an Elder, an ‘Under-shepherd’, who serves on behalf of the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ. May God, through him, bring His blessings to us as a congregation; and may we as a congregation bring God’s Blessing to him, as we live by His Word in the empowerment of His Holy Spirit. Pastor Alan
Sunday 2nd January 2022 : Jesus, the Suffering King
Yesterday was the start of a New Year – 2022! A New Year in which to live in praise and thanks to the Lord; everyday an act of worship to Him as our Father and Creator; a New Year in which to serve in the Lord’s vineyard, using the gifts and circumstances He had apportioned to each of us as His workers; a New Year to witness to the glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; a New Year of prayer giving glory and thanks to the Lord and pleading the cause of His Kingdom in the world; a New Year to live in anticipation of God’s wonderful outpouring of His grace and gifts.
Is that how you see the New Year or are you living in fear of the Covid-19 virus and how it may restrict your freedoms and cause further angst? Are you worrying about the future and what it may bring, finding that a complaint comes more easily on your lips than praise? By default, we become people of our culture where ‘self’ is at the centre of life (complaining is expressing that you are not getting what you think you deserve, after all). We have to work (by the Holy Spirit’s empowerment) at being godly.
How do we reset the spiritual compass for 2022? Jeremiah was a prophet of doom. He prophesied the total destruction of Jerusalem; city walls broken down, Temple robbed and razed to the ground, and the Israelites deported and dispersed throughout the Babylonian Empire. Life was hopeless! God’s people enslaved and scattered by an enemy nation, somewhat like the Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. But Jeremiah also prophesied words of hope after prophesying that the Israelites would be captive for 70 years, and he says in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know I have plans for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” How? Immediately in the Return of the Captives to Jerusalem (where they would sin and rebel again), but ultimately in the Coming of Jesus as the Lord’s Messiah, Who would bring in the ‘New Covenant’ of Jeremiah 31:34 by bearing the curse of the Law for us by His death on the Cross. This was also the comfort to Mary and Joseph and the Jews when Herod slaughtered all the male boys under 2 years of age. Jesus as the Christ brought with Him the sword of suffering as Satan tries to stop Him from bringing the Lord’s salvation. The reason Jesus came was to defeat Satan and claim His own – but that is a battle of the Gospel that brings suffering. Our hope and comfort is not in having the lack of suffering and pain (which is what we are saying when we complain), but rather in our suffering being redeemed by the promise and hope of God’s salvation. So, how do you see the New Year? Pastor Alan
Sunday 26th December 2021 : Jesus, the Promised King
If someone asked you, “How can you be sure that Jesus is really the Saviour?”, how do we know that Jesus is not just a Christian version of Santa Claus? What answer would you give them? The Apostle Matthew was writing to fellow Jews and in his Gospel shows that Jesus is the Messiah-King predicted by the prophets, and the fulfilment of God’s promises given in the Old Testament. Firstly, Matthew shows that Jesus is born of the Royal line of David – He has a royal inheritance in Joseph – the right to the Throne. Matthew then shows that Jesus also has a Divine heritage through His conception by the Holy Spirit – being born of the Virgin Mary, fulfilling the prophecy of Micah 5:2. Matthew goes on to show that even the King-Makers of the East recognised the Kingship of Jesus as they came and worshipped Him with gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. Matthew continues with prophecies about four locations: Bethlehem, Egypt, Ramah and Nazareth. There some 332 prophecies about the coming of Jesus Christ. So, what’s the point? Even by the laws of probability, that one person could fulfil all these prophecies and not be the Lord’s Messiah would be impossible.
How does that fit into my everyday life? Why would I want to spend time looking at dry, old prophecies written hundreds of years ago and written in some old book called the Bible? I just want to know how to get through the day! How to pay my mortgage and save my marriage! Well… those dry, old prophecies from hundreds of years ago authenticate that Jesus really is the Christ. And that is fundamentally important because you are being asked to entrust your eternal destiny to Him. God sent Jesus as His Messiah-King to claim back a world corrupted and spoiled by our rebellion against the Creator God. Through Jesus as the Lord and Saviour, God is re-creating the world to perfection – where He will make all things new. In Jesus (upon repentance), our rebellion against God is forgiven and guilt removed. In Jesus we receive new hearts that want to love God and please Him. In Jesus we receive a new standing before God – being His Beloved Children. In Jesus we have a new life with new values – loving our enemies, serving others, finding contentment in God’s providence. In Jesus we have a new future – death has been transformed into a doorway to Heaven, and we anticipate an eternity in the glory of heaven. Believing in and following Jesus is life transforming! But, why would I put my hope in just an idea, merely a philosophy? How can I know that Christianity is really true? Because of the Baby in a Manger which we celebrate as Christmas. The Baby in the Manger is the fulfilment of all God’s Promises made from the time of Adam & Eve through to the prophets. Jesus is historically real, with a real physical lineage. For me, the historicity of Jesus, through God’s promises and his physically descending from Adam, is so persuasive that I have committed my whole life and eternity to Him.
What about you? Whom or what do you believe? Have you committed your life (your eternal destiny) to Him? Pastor Alan
Sunday 19th December 2021 : Jesus, the Universal King
As we were walking down the street one evening, we admired the ‘Christmas’ lights in people’s front yards. Some were plain and simple, and others elaborate and quite spectacular! It was beautiful. All beauty is from the Lord and was made to bring glory to the Lord. And that set me to thinking: Who is this beauty giving glory to? There are generally two scenes displayed; the Nativity scene and the Santa theme (of course, there are those displays that are simply an array of festive blinking lights). Who is being worshipped? In Matthew 2, we see the Magi who came from the East. The Magi were of a priestly line, experts in the occult, astronomy and astrology. They were also the power behind the throne; the King-Makers. No man was made King without the approval and training of the Magi. Yet there they were in Jerusalem enquiring after the newborn King of the Jews because they had seen His Star in the East. These Gentile King-Makers had come to worship Jesus the King! Then there was Herod. He was paranoidly terrified when he heard about this King of the Jews linked to the prophets. He asked the Magi to identify where Jesus was so that he too might worship Him. When he felt betrayed by the Magi, he went into a vicious rage and ordered that all boys up to two years of age be slaughtered. Herod was about worshipping himself and would do absolutely anything at all to keep hold of his throne.
As we look at the beautiful display of lights on the houses in the street, we see the same battle going on! Santa is the myth that society lets children believe in, Santa with his elves, with a kingdom in the North Pole and the supernatural transport of the reindeers and carriage, benevolently dispensing gifts and good cheer around the world. Santa is the world’s alternative to the worship of Jesus – the newborn king. But closer to home: Whom do our Christmas practices worship? The cards, the gifts, the Christmas lunch, the getting together and all the festivities – do they bring our focus to Christ, or, could it be that they are subtly self-indulgent, like Herod? Let us indeed enjoy the Christmas lights in our neighbourhood in the beauty that God has created. But in our enjoyment let us remember that it is Jesus Whom we worship. Jesus, the Christ-Child – the New born King. Pastor Alan
Sunday 12th December 2021 : Jesus, the Divine King
You know, with the Christmas Story I always felt a bit sorry for Joseph. Everyone else seemed to have a part. Mary talked with the angel and sang her song, the angels sang in the heavenly chorus, the shepherds ran off to Bethlehem and told everyone they met, and even the Magi had speaking parts. But Joseph just stood by silently, watching. Or did he?
In Matthew 1:18-25, we see that the role of Joseph was significant! It was Joseph that passed on to Jesus the (genealogy) Royal line of David, so Jesus could legitimately be the King. It was Joseph who by his righteous and merciful actions preserved the life of Mary and the unborn child. Under Jewish Law (Deuteronomy 22:23), he could have had Mary stoned to death for adultery – and that would have been the end of the line of salvation. It was Joseph who believed the words of the Angel of the Lord that Mary had conceived by the work of the Holy Spirit and, in a response of faith and obedience, took her home as his wife, but waited until the child was born before having marital relations. It was Joseph who named the baby “Jesus”. What we see is that Joseph was the father of Jesus in every way, except he was not his biological father. It was Joseph who later protected Mary and Jesus by fleeing to Egypt from the cruel killing spree of Herod.
In his love and mercy, faith and obedience, Joseph was reckoned to be a ‘righteous man’, a man to whom the Lord entrusted to be father to the Christ-Child. As one writer put it, “God laid His biggest gift in Joseph’s calloused hands.” In Sunday School we were told to ‘dare to be a Daniel’. But I fervently ask the Lord that I might be a righteous man like Joseph – who was the most blessed of all men (besides Jesus) – to be entrusted with the role of being the father of Jesus! Pastor Alan
Sunday 5th December 2021 : Jesus, the Gracious King
Under Covid-19, we all know about authentication: needing credentials to go and get into places. You need to sign in with a QR code and then show your Vaccination pass. No pass, no entry. Or under Church Safe, if you do not have a Working with Children Check Certificate, you can’t help out with children’s programmes or teach SRE. If you want to get a job, you need to show proof of your qualifications. Even if you want to drive a car, you need to show your driver’s licence to the Police to show you are qualified to drive on the roads. ‘Authentication’ is part of our everyday life.
In his Gospel, Matthew is declaring that Jesus is the Messiah-King, the One prophesied about and promised from long ago. But how do we know that Jesus really is the Messiah-king, because in the time of Jesus, there were a number of men going about proclaiming that they were the Messiah! How do you know who was speaking the truth? In the opening 17 verses of Matthew Chapter 1, Matthew presents the ‘credentials’ of Jesus Christ by laying out His genealogy – a bit like the Apostle Paul in Philippians Chapter 3 laid out his religious and ethnic credentials to prove that he had the right to speak alongside the Scribes and Pharisees. Matthew follows the Royal ancestry line to Abraham, with whom the Lord had made a Covenant and through whose descendants the Lord established the people of Israel. And to David also, to whom God had promised that a descendant would rule on his throne forever! Matthew shows that Jesus has the legal right and the bloodline right to be the King of Israel. Jesus is the ‘Real Mc Coy’, the authentic Messiah-King!
You know, often we simply skip over the list of names when they come up in the Bible. Many of them are so hard to pronounce! This morning we see that those lists of names are there for good reason. The reason of ‘authentication’. Jesus did not simply pop-up in history as all the other religious leaders did. He was promised from the time of the Garden of Eden and His ancestry can be traced right back through David, Abraham to Adam (in Luke). God in His amazing grace leaves no room for doubt; Jesus is Real! So, let’s believe and follow Him with confidence. Pastor Alan
Sunday 28th November 2021 : True Greatness in the Kingdom
Much is said and taught today about promoting yourself. You have rights, you can be what you want to be, you need to feel good about yourself, etc. However, I wonder if our country is a better place with all this modern emphasis on self?
James and John, Disciples of Jesus, had their eyes on the glory of Jesus and how they would sit on the twelve thrones with Him. But they wanted more, they wanted the place of honour, to sit on the right and left of Jesus. It is interesting that in the Parable of the Wedding Feast, Jesus advises that we do not just go and sit in the place of honour, lest you be told to move down the table to a lower position. It is in our sinful nature to think more highly of ourselves than we ought; even if we take on a victim mentality or an inferiority complex. They too are a preoccupation with self in disguise, in that we think we are not getting what we deserve. In fact, most of us wrestle with thinking about and serving ourselves most of the time. Think of the last time you got angry or disappointed or even frustrated. They are all symptoms of not being in control – not having your interests being served!
James and John wanted to be ‘one up’ on the other disciples by being seated next to Jesus in glory. But Jesus gently teaches them a better way to life and relationships: the way of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom principle is quite simple but radical, “True Greatness in the Kingdom is by being a servant!” The test of a man is not by how many people he can dominate, control and direct for his own purposes. Rather a test of a man of God is his ability to serve the needs of others for their good – to submit his ego and need for control to the Lord and be busy in His kingdom work. Humility (power under control – a fruit of the Holy Spirit) is the real test of a man.
Jesus is the ultimate example of this. He had been given all power, dominion and authority as the Son of Man, and yet, the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. A ransom is to pay a price to set a slave or prisoner free. A slave was on the lowest rung of Roman society, yet Jesus the Supreme One laid down His life for us to set us free from the slavery of sin, we who were under the judgement of the Holy God. Jesus suffered God’s judgement on the Cross for us. And now, He calls us to follow His example, to live a life of Kingdom service by serving the needs of others for their good. Next time you are angry, disappointed or frustrated, ask yourself ‘whose interests are you serving?’ Next time you gossip, putting others down to make yourself look good, ask yourself ‘whose interests are you serving?’ True Greatness is not in getting your own way – it is by serving the needs of others for their good. And that takes character and humility. Whom are you serving? Pastor Alan
Sunday 14th November 2021 : Jesus, On the Pathway to Suffering
We find Jesus striding off up the road to Jerusalem, leaving His Disciples to follow on behind Him. The Disciples are not keen about where Jesus is going. They were expecting Jesus to sound the rally call to arms and to lead the people against the oppression of Rome. Instead, Jesus is insisting on going to Jerusalem by Himself – no army, no armed guards, just Jesus and His band of Disciples. They are worried because Jesus is a marked man. There are lots of people who want to see Him dead! Going to Jerusalem was like signing a death warrant.
What they failed to see is that that is exactly what Jesus was doing – going to Jerusalem to serve a death sentence. And Jesus tells them that: I will be delivered up to the Sanhedrin, who in turn will hand Me over to the Roman authorities who will treat Me abysmally, declare a death sentence and hang Me up on a Roman Cross. But you need to know this, I am not going as a helpless victim. I am the Son of Man to Whom God the Father has given the authority to rule and judge and I am going on My terms.
You see, all this has to happen to bring to fullness what the prophets of the Old Testament have predicted concerning Me. I have come to do the Father’s will, which is that as the Christ I will suffer and die on the Cross to pay for the sins of my people, to be the ultimate and perfect sacrifice to which all the Old Testament sacrifices pointed.
Jesus knew what was coming and He turned to face it – voluntarily, willingly, lovingly and obediently. He was willing to suffer and die for you and for me. Though He was first in status as the Son of Man, He was willing to become the Last, reckoned the greatest of all sinners, through His suffering and death.
Have you stopped recently to consider what Jesus did for you, the price He was willing to pay, the extent of suffering He was willing to endure? Does it evoke a sense of awe and thankfulness?
Notice the hope in the suffering: ‘after three days He will rise’. The Resurrection of Jesus is the sign of His victory over Sin, Death and Satan. It bursts the shackles of death and the grave. It crushes the head of Satan and sets us free from the condemnation of the Law, reconciling and restoring us to God as our Father. Jesus is the victorious King Who has ushered in the Kingdom of God that the Disciples were so eagerly anticipating! Although they did not realise it yet, that came at Pentecost. Let us with grateful hearts praise and give thanks to the Lord today. Pastor Alan
Sunday 7th November 2021 : Christ – the Anointed One
We are very taken up with credentials. Currently you have to have the credentials of being double vaccinated to enter into non-essential services. If you go to a national Rugby Match, you need to show your credentials – a valid ticket – to be allowed to go in. If you drive on the road and the police pull you over, you have to provide credentials – your driver’s licence – to prove that you are allowed to be driving your car on the road.
In the church too, we use credentials: If we go as representatives of our local church the Classis (regional church) Meeting, we need to provide credentials – a signed form from the church – saying we are officially representing our local church at the meeting. Ministers have to sit church examinations and be officially ordained – seen in the granting of the official title of Reverend and informal title of Pastor. Elders and Deacons are ordained, set apart and given the authority of Office by their vows and the laying on of hands.
Jesus is called the ‘Christ’ – the ‘Anointed One’ – which is His Title of the Office of Mediator. Why does this matter? Because it distinguishes Jesus from every other prophet or religious leader through all of history. There are many religions in the world, but there is only ‘One’ Who has been appointed and anointed by God to be the Mediator, Jesus Christ, an appointment and anointing to the Office seen in His Baptism by John the Baptist, where the Holy Spirit descended as a dove and God the Father spoke words of confirmation from heaven.
Sometimes we are challenged as Christians how dare we claim that Christianity is the only true religion in the world! We make that claim because Jesus is the ‘Christ’. Only Jesus has been given the authority by God the Father to represent His people before the Throne in Heaven. Because Jesus is the Christ, our salvation is guaranteed and secure, and therefore we can declare with the Apostle Paul that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ and no fear of separation from the love of God the Father!
Also, some accuse Christianity of being intolerant and exclusive. But that is the nature of things! We do this exclusion exercise every day and all the time! No green vaccination tick – no entry into non-essential services. No ticket – no entry into the Rugby match. No licence – no driving your car on the road. You either have the credential or you do not. If you do not have the credential of faith in Jesus the Christ – no entry into heaven. It is not about exclusivity (keeping people out); rather, it is about eligibility (who is allowed in) – as all credentials are. Pastor Alan
Sunday 31st October 2021 : No Condemnation!
Dr Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic monk who lived in terror because he could not find peace for his soul. He tried everything to get right with God. He kept every rule of the Roman Catholic church, praying all night, confessing his sins to the priest every day, fasting, whipping himself, sleeping on the cold concrete floor, and humbling himself by begging on the streets. But no matter how hard he tried he could not find peace. He only felt the burden of God’s Judgement. He saw God as an angry God Who demanded satisfaction for sins.
And isn’t that often our struggle? “I’m not good enough to be a Christian.” “Why should God forgive me, when I’ve done it again for the umpteenth time?” “How can God forgive me, if only you knew what a terrible person I am.” “I hope God will have mercy on me when I die!”
Martin Luther was a very miserable and disillusioned monk! Until one day, the Holy Spirit opened Martin’s understanding of Romans 1:17:
“For in the Gospel a righteousness of God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith… for the just will live by faith.”
And like a blinding light the truth of this text struck Luther! This “Righteousness of God” did not come by what WE do, but by what Jesus has done for us by His dying on the Cross. This ‘righteousness of God’ (i.e., God no longer being angry at our sin, rather accepting us as His children) was in fact a righteousness that came from God through Jesus Christ. It is His FREE GIFT to us in Jesus Christ.
Now you can imagine the indignation of Luther when he realized we are saved by grace, and the Roman Catholic church taught that you need to earn your way into heaven by your own good works and serving time in purgatory when you died. He was incensed that the church sold certificates for forgiveness of a number of sins (called indulgences), even more so to people who could not even afford to feed their children but were so terrified of hell that they bought them anyway. In his indignation he nailed 95 theses to the Wittenburg Castle door for scholarly discussion, pointing out how the Catholic church needed to change to reflect what the Bible taught about salvation. These Theses were printed and sent around the known world and became the spark that set alight the fire – what we know as the Reformation – recapturing the truth of the Gospel: Saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Pastor Alan
Sunday 24th October 2021 : Religious or Righteous?
Jesus remarked how hard it was for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. In Jewish thought, a rich man was a man blessed by God, like Abraham, Job and King David. A man blessed by God was under God’s favour. So, if the Rich Young Ruler failed the grade, who then can be saved? It is impossible! And that was the point that Jesus was making; it is impossible for a person to earn or negotiate their way into the kingdom of God. Only God Himself can open the way to heaven, which He did when through His grace He sent Jesus to die on the Cross for our sins that we might be reconciled to Him.
Then you can see Peter’s mind ticking over……. But we have left everything to follow Jesus as He commanded the Rich Young Ruler, so if we can’t earn our way into heaven……. where does that leave us? Jesus reassures Peter and the Disciples that the Kingdom brings great rewards – rewards that wealth and human power cannot buy or achieve.
What are those rewards?
First of all, it is reconciliation with God, receiving the gift of eternal life, with God as your Father, Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, the Holy Spirit as your Counsellor and the Bible as your guide for faith and life.
The second is being joined by faith into the Body of Christ. This is what Jesus goes on to describe to Peter and the Disciples: Kingdom rewards of God’s grace that come through His Church. Whatever you lose for the sake of Christ and His Gospel, you will receive one hundred-fold, i.e., uncountable blessings of God’s grace through the Church.
However, in our modern culture, even as Christians, we tend to think individualistically. We tend to relate as nuclear families – Mum, Dad and the kids. We tend to look at the church as an organisation from a consumer perspective: that the church is there to meet my needs. In fact, we tend not to have a very high view of the Church. But the church is much, much more than an organisation; it is the Body of Christ! It is an organic, spiritual unity of Believers through which God pours out His grace. But in order to receive the rewards of the Kingdom, you must belong to the Church, be part of the Body of Christ by faith, using your gifts in the place God has given you (Romans 12:3-8). Pastor Alan
Sunday 17th October 2021 : Do Not Hinder the Children
There is a saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive…” But you know, it is actually a lot easier to give than it is to receive. Because when we give, we work from our strengths. When we receive, we feel beholden. Someone gives us a gift and we rebuke them, “That’s for me? – Oh, you shouldn’t have!” Someone compliments us and we play it down, “Oh, I didn’t play that well, really!” As we help people in the community, many find it hard to accept help; they feel in debt and often cannot understand that we do it from the Love of Jesus – no repayment needed as Christ has paid it all.
In the Jewish culture, the people were busy trying to earn God’s favour by obeying the Law; they even put the tradition of the Elders around the Law to help you keep the Law! We see that in the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax-collector. God, look at me, at all the good things I have been doing – You just give the word and I am ready to step right into heaven … and the Kingdom of God! They were more than ready to grab a sword and fight off the oppression of the Romans – Jesus the Miracle worker (in their perception) just needed to give the word!
So, imagine the brain strain when Jesus holds a little baby in His arms, a little person on the lowest rung of society, utterly helpless and dependent, and says, “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a little baby shall not enter it.” What’s that?! That can’t be right! We are ready to fight and overthrow the Romans and restore the Kingdom of King David. No, teaches Jesus, the Kingdom of God is entered by repentance and faith; by submission to God; by being utterly dependent on the work of Jesus; no earning your way as the Pharisee tried to, no negotiating like the Rich Young Ruler tried to – simply receiving it by faith as Zacchaeus did.
No one likes to be told they are a sinner deserving God’s anger and Judgement. Immediately we say that ‘we are not that bad’. But you can’t get into heaven by being an “okay Guy”! God sets the standard of perfection and we can only reach that perfection in Jesus Christ. Eternal life – heaven – is God’s free gift. But you have to give yourself up, yield completely to Jesus as your Lord and Saviour through Repentance and Faith, and keep giving yourself up, handing over the steering wheel of life to Jesus – like a Baby, utterly and totally dependent on Jesus. How dependent are you? Pastor Alan
Sunday 10th October 2021 : The Saints at Work
It is interesting that nowhere in the Bible is slavery directly condemned. It was one of those practices that was not denounced as evil – yet was regulated like Divorce (Matthew 19:2-8) and Polygamy (Leviticus 18:18) – but also never commended. Slavery was a widespread, universally accepted and unquestioned practice in the ancient world. What the Gospel does is renew the institution from the inside out. For example, in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul calls them to live as they have been called: if you are a slave, be content as a slave (although if you can get your freedom then do that!); if you are free then live as bondservant of Christ. What he is teaching is that the outward institution is superseded by the relationship with the Lord. A Bondservant is a ‘freedman of the Lord’ and a free man is a ‘bondservant of Jesus Christ’. Earthly institutions do not determine or dictate our status before God. The Gospel renews these institutions. Look at Paul sending Onesimus back to his slave owner Philemon: Philemon is not instructed to set Onesimus free but to treat him as a ‘Brother in Christ’! Consequently, the institution becomes somewhat irrelevant. The Apostle Peter calls on slaves to bear up even under harsh masters, pointing to Jesus as the example of suffering unjustly.
Slavery has many faces; from being kidnapped and made to work in horrific inhumane conditions, to bosses holding their workers to ransom, threatening job loss if they do not comply, to coercive control in the home. The Gospel redeems these institutions from within. It reminds us that no one is truly free in the sense that they can do what they want, when they want and how they want. We are all answerable and accountable to someone else: ultimately to God the Creator. And so, in his letters, the Apostle Paul encourages slaves to serve their masters well, with good will and respect. Why? Because ultimately, we are all serving the Lord – doing your work well is doing it for the Lord. Our modern culture urges us to see the boss as the enemy, who is trying to rip us off for his own gain and profit, and so we justify cheating him as our due. But the Gospel says that God is our Boss, and He sets the standards; honour Him in the way you do your work! We live in a world broken and corrupted by sin which invades every part of life (that is not to say we should not pursue justice against slavery like the International Justice Mission).
But how do we live within this brokenness and corruption? We are called to redeem the workplace by living godly, honest, upright lives working for Jesus. A powerful witness to the Gospel is when we are serving our Master Jesus through our work. Pastor Alan
Sunday 3rd October 2021 : God’s Design for Families – Husbands (2)
When we consider our marriages, as we have been in the ‘God’s Design for Marriage’ series, many of us live with regrets. Many of us, as husbands, have not loved our wives as Christ loved the church with a self-sacrificing, purifying, caring and unbreakable love. We have not been as kind, considerate and loving as we could have been. We have often been guilty of neglecting our wives on many fronts. So, what do we do with these regrets? Is it too late? No. With the Gospel it is never too late; while there is life there is hope for forgiveness and renewal!
The Bible calls husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. And when we fail?
Firstly, we need to be convicted by God’s design for marriage. This is what He calls us to be and do as husbands.
Secondly, we are called to have the courage to follow God’s design for marriage, without blame shifting or excuses, simply ‘stepping up to the plate’ and starting to be the man God’s called you to be.
Thirdly, we are to come before the Lord in prayer and seek His strength to live in His ways, by a submitting of the heart and the transforming of the mind.
Fourthly, we repent, firstly before God – for squandering this precious gift of marriage – and then before our wife and children – naming and taking ownership of our failures.
Fifthly, we seek their forgiveness, remembering that we may have hurt them very deeply, humbly waiting to regain their trust. Forgiveness is an act of mercy on their part and not your right.
Sixthly, it is to live in the newness of life of the Gospel, accepting the forgiveness from others and forgiving yourself for what God in Jesus has forgiven you. Do not offend God again by carrying guilt for what He has forgiven you. The Gospel brings a new start. Jesus loved the church and sanctified her to present her to Himself as Holy, Blameless and Pure, now worthy of His love and affection. Go and live out that new start!
“Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church…”
How wonderful our marriages will be as we follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ! Pastor Alan
Sunday 26th September 2021 : God’s Design for Families – Husbands (1)
I once asked a husband, “Tell me six things about your wife that irritate you?” Before you could say, ‘Robinson Crusoe’, he had listed six things! Then I asked him, “Tell me two things you really love about your wife?” He paused, scratched his head and said, “You’ve got me there!” The couple had spiralled so far down the slope of hurt and bitterness that they lost sight of love. Let’s face it, marriage requires hard work. If you want your marriage to fail, simply put no effort into it.
Why is marriage hard work? Because we battle with the curse and brokenness of sin! When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, one of the curses from God was that the husband and wife would battle for their own way (Genesis 3:16). What hope is there, then? Is it better not to get married – as the Disciples suggested in Matthew 19:10? No. Marriage is one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity. The Apostle Paul calls us to look to Jesus and His relationship with the Church as our model. Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church! In Jesus, we see that love is firstly an attitude. Jesus loved the church even though she was unlovable in sin and rebellion; in fact, He gave up His life for her, taking upon Himself her sin upon the Cross. She did not deserve His love, but He gave it to her to meet her need to make her holy and pure. As a husband we love our wife as a commitment to her wellbeing, not in response to what she does for us.
Secondly, love expresses itself in action. Jesus loved the church so much He gave up His life for her! He did what it took to bring her to her fullest potential. As husbands, we are called to do what it takes to bring our wives to their fullness as a person, woman, mother and wife. There may be a number of things we have to give up in order to cherish our wives. Biblical headship is about serving, not about being the boss. Jesus is the Head of the church, yet He died for her so that she might be saved and purified.
Well, husbands, does your wife feel loved, honoured and cherished? If not, what are you going to do about it? This morning Jesus calls you to imitate His love for the church! And if it all feels overwhelming, then go to Jesus, He will provide the Bible as your Guide, the Holy Spirit as your Encourager, and the church as your support. You are not on your own. Pastor Alan
Sunday 19th September 2021 : The Battle Call
The International Justice Mission shares numerous stories of people who have been released from the Slave Trade. One of them is Dom, a subsistence farmer in rural Cambodia. He was offered a job to work on a fishing boat in Thailand promising to make enough money to care for his family. When Dom reached Thailand, he was put on a boat with other Cambodian men and was forced to work 19-20 hours a day for no pay. Dom had been sold into slave labour. This went for 6 years before the boat was seized by Indonesian authorities and Dom was allowed to return home.
Imagine Dom’s horror when he returned home and found that his son had been deceived and trafficked by the same people! Dom then worked with IJM to stop this network of traffickers who were caught and convicted. Dom’s son was also rescued and returned home.
Slavery is a horrific manifestation of the spiritual battle of the kingdoms; the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. There is a spiritual battle going on in the background that rages in our everyday lives. Satan is a fallen angel who has made it his self-appointed task to attempt to de-throne God and spoil all His good gifts in creation. Slavery is a way that Satan attempts to spit God in the eye, to insult and offend the Creator God. He does this in attacking the image of God in humanity by dehumanising slaves in their being treated worse than animals: no dignity, no voice, no choice, forced to labour, and often inadequate food or rest.
In Ephesians Chapter 6, the Apostle Paul calls us to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might by putting on the full armour of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Paul teaches us that there is a battle going on between the kingdoms, and he identifies Satan as the enemy who has a battle plan to rule the world in place of God and take down as many people as he can. Paul calls us to be aware of this battle in the attempt to de-throne God, as it goes on right before our very eyes every day. But Jesus has won the victory on the Cross; He is the Lord over all; He has given to us the Bible and the Holy Spirit to strengthen and equip us. So let us be strong in the Lord and help the fight also on the battle front of slavery by supporting the work of the International Justice Mission. Pastor Alan
Sunday 12th September 2021 : God’s Design for Families – Children
Over the last 50 years there has been an increasing emphasis on child-centred training in the home. Children’s feelings and preferences are accommodated over against parent directed teaching of self-discipline and respect for authority. As parents we began to feed self-indulgence instead of self-control; children’s freedom of expression and natural cravings were elevated to the point that children have become more outspoken, defiant and demanding of gratification. In fact, today children have come to view gratification as a right. In the old days we would have said that children today behave like ‘spoiled brats’. How did we get here?
One could blame Dr Spock and his child rearing book “Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care”, which had contributed to an increase of permissive parenting in America as parents began to be afraid to impose on the child in any way. While Dr Spock may have heavily influenced a post war society that experienced great prosperity with an indulgence and appetite for luxury, that is only half the answer. The other half is that as Christians we let go of God’s design for the family; we allowed culture to develop our thinking rather than the Bible.
In the Bible, God gives His design for the family: Parents are to bring up children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, and children are to obey and honour their parents. In fact, God protects His design for the family with the fifth commandment – the first commandment with a promise, indicating its significance. The significance is that the family is the foundation of society: a child who obeys and honours his parents at home has the ability to make relationships work on any other level. The Fifth commandment is the key to all society: without obedience and honour in the home there will only be chaos in society. In other words, a breakdown in the family will result in the breakdown of society. Romans 1:18-32 shows us what a broken-down society looks like – and disobedience to parents is one of the characteristics.
As Christians, we have a wonderful ministry by example to our community when we live by God’s design for the family. The Lord takes pleasure when we reflect His love for us, as the Heavenly Father, to one another. He is pleased to give His blessing upon families that live for Him and by His word. Will you have the courage to be Biblical rather than cultural? As adult children, will you honour your parents so that they feel loved and not neglected, not just a burden to others in their older age, but a blessed part of the family? Pastor Alan
Sunday 5th September 2021 : God’s Design for Families – Fathers
Today is celebrated in our country as ‘Father’s Day’, a day in which we show our appreciation for the place of fathers in our lives. For some this has been a good experience; their father being their hero in the faith. For others it has been a negative experience; suffering at the hands and voice of an abusive father. But we can all give thanks and celebrate God as our Heavenly Father Who loved us with a love so great that He sent His One and Only Son to die on the Cross, to pay the ransom for our sins and to remove our guilt and shame – so that we would be called ‘Children of God’. The Apostle John puts it this way, “Behold what manner of love the Father has lavished upon us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
The greatest and most meaningful thing in life is that we know God as our Heavenly Father through our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul affirms that in Ephesians 6, calling parents to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. There have been many child-rearing strategies throughout the years from Dr Spock to Dr Dobson. But the Bible teaches that teaching with consequences – to set boundaries – is a universal principle. God has set the boundaries for godliness and calls parents to instil them in their children. Instruction needs to go with discipline. If we discipline without instruction (the children not knowing why), we cause resentment. Children have a high sense of justice. As adults they normally do not remember their childhood discipline if it was fair, but they do clearly recollect being disciplined unfairly! If we instruct without discipline (talking without doing), we breed contempt. Children deeply desire that we are people of our word – that we can be trusted. In this they have security.
We can all look back and have regrets about our parenting performance. Hindsight can give us 20/20 vision. But for most of us we did the best we could for where we were at and what we knew at the time. Thank God that His grace is greater than our shortcomings! But if we have failed as parents, the Lord offers forgiveness through repentance. The Gospel gives a new start if we all bend the knee to Jesus. We may have to live with the consequences of our actions, but the Lord in His Gospel grace provides a new start. Now, as some of us are grandparents, may we continue to share with our grandchildren the promises of God which come in Jesus Christ. Pastor Alan
Sunday 29th August 2021 : God’s Design for Marriage – Wives (2)
Marriage is one of the most wonderful gifts that God has created for mankind; a mystical organic unity expressed physically, spiritually and relationally; one man and one woman in a lifelong committed love relationship. But how do we relate to one another as husbands and wives? In Ephesians, the Bible tells us that we are to ‘submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.’ ‘Submit’ here means to consider the interest and wellbeing of the other before ourselves, living under the authority of the Lord Jesus by following the ways He has shown us in the Bible. This submission to one another is by wives respecting their husbands and husbands loving their wives.
And then Paul gives the ‘headship’ principle; ‘For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.’ What does this mean? In simple terms it means that the husband is responsible for the marriage. Note how it goes on, “as Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Saviour.” What did Jesus do as our Saviour? He died on the cross to pay the ransom for our sins and remove our guilt and shame. He sent us His Holy Spirit to be our Paraclete, as our guide and comforter, and He gave us the Bible. In other words, as our ‘Saviour’ Jesus functions as a Shepherd loving, protecting, providing and preserving. That is not an authoritative role as Lord, but a serving role as Shepherd. Husbands are not called to be ‘lords’ over their wives as those whom must be obeyed; rather they are called to be responsible for the marriage relationship by serving their wives as shepherds. Paul seems to be addressing the gender weaknesses seen at the Fall into sin (Eve taking control and Adam abdicating his responsibility) so that there would be a godly submission to one another out of reverence for Christ.
God’s design for marriage was that it would be liberating, fulfilling and a delight, bringing both husband and wives to their fullest potential as they encourage and enable each other to fulfil their calling as godly men and women. I pray that your marriage may be a “taste of heaven” as you delight in, respect and love one another as God designed you to. Pastor Alan
Sunday 22nd August 2021 : God’s Design for Marriage – Wives (1)
In the Apostles’ Creed we confess that we believe in “God the Father Almighty, Creator of the heavens and the earth.” God created the universe for His glory; for His enjoyment and delight. “And it was very good!” The crowning glory of creation is creating mankind in His own image. Male and female He created them. You see, God intentionally created humans as male and female, and so He delights in their genders! He delights in the manhood of males, in the womanhood of females, and how He created them to become one flesh in a committed love relationship for life in marriage, bearing children to create His very own people to have a special friendship with and to take pleasure in. That is how God designed marriage; one man and one woman in a committed love relationship for life, protected by marriage.
In His design for marriage, the Lord also gave a pattern for the expression of maleness and femaleness. Males have characteristics and responsibilities that come with being a man, and females have characteristics and responsibilities that come with being a woman. A husband is called to love, nurture and help his wife grow into the woman of God that God has called her to be. The wife is called to respect, encourage and allow her husband to have the responsibility for protecting and caring for the family as God has called him to do.
But that was spoiled by the Fall into sin. Now, a man tends to abdicate – run away – from his responsibilities to the family, and the woman tends to want to control the family. In the brokenness of sin (and curse of the Fall), the marriage has become a battle ground of wills; husband and wife both each exerting their independence, rather than living in interdependence; of wanting their rights to be served by the other (expressed in, “what about me?”) rather than being willing to serve the needs of the other in love. Today, submission – serving the needs of others for their wellbeing – has become a dirty word of exploitation. Gender is promoted as a curse and is considered oppressive.
Are you tired of the ongoing battle and strife? Are you weary from the hurt and pain of a strained or broken relationship? Then look at what God’s design for marriage is. In simple terms, wives respect your husbands and husbands love your wives! Explore what the Bible teaches about the roles in a marriage that reflects God’s wonderful design and His delight in the genders that He has created. Pastor Alan
Sunday 15th August 2021 : Submit to One Another
What is the most important thing in your life? One good aspect to the Covid-19 virus and lockdowns is that it has made many of us evaluate what is truly important. Being stopped in our tracks, restricted to our homes and able to do little else, has helped us to think, What is it all about? What is important? Is having a well-paid job really that important for the hours and energy I have to put into it? Is it having my dream home, really, with the mortgage I have to pay for it? Is winning that argument worth the broken friendship it has brought with it? The most important thing in life is relationships. Loving, caring and reaching out to others. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, that if I have done and achieved all sorts of marvellous things in life, but have not love – I am nothing! Patterned on the Trinity, God has made us to be communal beings; people in relationship with one another.
The Apostle addresses relationships in Ephesians 5. He commands that we not be drunk with wine (the selfish sinful nature) but to be filled with the Spirit which results in being filled with joy, in joining with others in worship to God, and in thanksgiving. The way we do this is by ‘submitting to one another’. It is to submit our selfish desires and control to one another so as to serve the good of others and to grow relationships. It is interesting that Paul gives submitting to one another as a command. It is not a choice but a characteristic of being filled with the Spirit. Just as Jesus gave Himself on the Cross for our wellbeing, we are now called to serve the needs of others so we may grow in relationship: Jesus said, “All men will know that you are my disciples if you have love one for another.”
How do we submit to one another?
Firstly, by realising that we are all equal in sin and humanity – no one is superior to another. Everything we are and can do is but a gift from God.
Secondly, by realising that we are all part of the Body of Christ. Everything we do is to build up and grow the Body of Christ. In our modern world we tend to think that life is all about me, what I desire, what I deserve. But as Christians we are all part of the Body of Jesus, each having gifts and the place assigned to me by God for the glory of Jesus Christ. It is like being on a soccer team – you all work together with your gifts and positions assigned to you to win the game. Your focus is the good of the team. And our motivation is, “out of reverence for Christ”; love for Jesus and thanks for His saving work.
Jesus has led the way by serving us and our needs in His death on the Cross. Paul says, in Philippians 2, that our attitude should be the same as that of Jesus who… was willing to go to death on the Cross for you and me. Covid has ‘knocked many of us for a six’. How are you submitting yourself to serving the needs of and encouraging others in growing relationships? Pastor Alan
Sunday 8th August 2021 : God’s Design for Marriage
Marriage is the most amazing, wonderful and unique relationship of all human relationships! It is the only relationship where the four expressions of love (erotic love, friendship love, family love and serving love) can legitimately be expressed and enjoyed. Marriage is a gift of God, given in the Garden of Eden at creation before the fall into sin. God had created Adam and given him the mandate to fill the earth. But Adam was unable to do that as a single male on the earth. Then, from Adam God created Eve, an exquisite female, and presented Eve to Adam to be his wife so they could have this extraordinary relationship of marriage – a love protected and made secure as the two became one flesh in marriage: one man and one woman in a love commitment to one another for life. And from that love comes children, further life. And that is how Adam and Eve, completing one another, fulfilled God’s mandate to populate the world!
But marriage has been distorted in so many ways: Love has been spoiled by violence and coercion. Trust has been broken in affairs, pornography has degraded wives, physical intimacy has been turned into recreation and prostitution. Commitment has been betrayed by divorce. Living together treats the partner like a prostitute. Marriage has been trivialised by TV game shows like Married at First Sight, Bachelor, Bachelorette, a Farmer needs a wife and even many years ago, the Love Boat, where romance is detached from the commitment and security of marriage. Something that God designed and gifted as a beautiful expression and commitment of love is now the means of hurting and soul-destroying one another.
It was no different in the time of Jesus. The Jews used divorce for a type of wife swapping. The Pharisees thought they could trap Jesus when questioning Him about Moses and Divorce, but Jesus taught them about God’s design for marriage as the Creator. The absolutely amazing thing is that marriages can be renewed and transformed back to God’s original intent in Jesus! The Gospel transforms and renews the heart, as Jesus shows us how in the example of His relationship with the Church; if husbands love their wives as Christ loved the Church, and wives respected their husbands as the church submits to Christ as her Lord, then Marriage should be a taste of heaven. If it isn’t? Bend the knee to Jesus! Bend the knee to Jesus in repentance for squandering God’s wonderful gift of marriage and let Him renew your marriage to God’s design. And then delight in it with joy. Pastor Alan
Sunday 1st August 2021 : Jesus – the Most Beautiful Name
What’s in a name? Names represent different relationships. I could be called: ‘Reverend’ – my official church title; or ‘Alan’ is used by friends in a more personal relationship; ‘Dad’ is what my children call me; ‘Pa’ is my name with the grandchildren. Names represent a relationship. In Lord’s Day 11 of the Heidelberg Catechism, it asks, “Why is the Son of God called Jesus, meaning Saviour? (As it considers the Apostles Creed: “I believe in Jesus Christ…”), and then it explores the different relationships we have with Jesus as expressed in His names. Note that God Himself gave Jesus His name – Mary and Joseph did not choose it – because the name of Jesus was in itself a revelation about Who He is and what He does. Jesus was sent by the Father to save us from our sins. Now that has implications for us; it means we need to admit we need saving, that we needed to be rescued from hell. It means that we caused Jesus to suffer and die on the Cross, for your sins and mine! Jesus was willing to suffer the very depths of hell to draw us into His love.
And now, He lives with us and walks with us in everything so it is no longer ‘I on my own’ but it ‘us’ – Jesus and me together. We live together through His Holy Spirit. Through His Word and Holy Spirit, Jesus helps us to learn new things and grow, to change old habits, to forgive and be restored, to live the new life in Him, to have hope and confidence and contentment, whatever the circumstances – for we live every day secure in His love. You see, the Christian life is not ‘something out there’, merely an ideology/religion; it is not following a bunch of rules and regulations. Rather, it is a beautiful, living relationship with our Lord Jesus. We live in Him, with Him and for Him. What is true for Jesus is also true for us as Believers.
Do you know Jesus in a personal relationship? Is He the focus of your life? Do you trust Him with your life and your future?
‘Jesus’: Isn’t that the most beautiful Name? Pastor Alan
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