Sunday 9th April 2023 : Why are you weeping?
Mary Magdalene was in turmoil. Jesus, her Rabbi, her Teacher, her Lord, was not a hardened criminal, and yet He had been crucified! She had put her hopes and dreams in Jesus; He had the answers to all their struggles. Jesus had given them hope and vision, and taught with such clarity and authority. But now… He is gone, dead and in the Tomb. All that is left are her memories and His body in the tomb. And so Mary’s mind now focuses on Jesus’ Body. At least she can attend to that as the Jewish custom of the day prescribed – her one last act of love and devotion.
There she was that Sunday morning hurrying to the tomb. As she arrived, she saw that the tomb had already been opened! Someone must have raided the tomb! Confused and angry she ran back to tell Peter & John. They ran to the tomb and also saw that it was empty. The strips of linen were still lying there because Jesus had just passed through the material. Mary was overcome with grief and further distress because Jesus’ body is gone! Then Mary saw two angels sitting there. Their presence does not penetrate Mary’s consciousness. ‘Woman, Why are you crying?’ they ask her. How can you be grieving this most glorious day? Don’t you understand, the Body of Jesus is not here because He has Risen! This is what earth and heaven have been waiting for! Sin and Death have been defeated! The curse of sin is broken. That’s why we are here.
But Mary cannot think past attending to Jesus’ Body. Why was she crying? Because they have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they have laid Him! But you know, if Mary had received Jesus’ body at that moment as she so dearly desired, it would mean Jesus had not risen from the dead, and we would have lost all our hope. We would be still lost in our sin and shame. However, Jesus gently called to Mary. There is a living Jesus standing in front of her, yet she still asks for His dead body. She wants it so she can drag it back to the tomb. Jesus steps up to Mary and gently brings her back to her senses. Mary hugs Jesus so tightly that it seems like she would never let Him go again! Now Jesus rebukes her! Don’t go on clinging to Me! I am not just alive again like Lazarus; this is My Resurrected Body; I am alive for ever and ever. Sin has been paid for and hell has been overcome. And so, there is a new (redemptive) relationship – go and tell My ‘BROTHERS’ – whereas before they were only His friends. What Jesus had achieved by His Resurrection had an enormous impact for the entire universe. As He has Risen, so shall the myriads of those who believe. As Jesus has overcome death and the curse of sin so shall the entire creation when God restores all things when Jesus comes again. Despite our failures as human beings, God in His grace has brought forgiveness and eternal life. In Hs Resurrection, Jesus brings forgiveness and hope to a world that is devastated by the misery of sin, where hunger and disease kill the poor, and stress and obesity kill the rich, where relationships are torn at and broken daily, where the media record society’s hatred and stupidity every day, where death is the fear of us all. All this is answered with the Good News, “Jesus is Alive and with us today!” All you need to do is believe and see the Truth as Mary did. Pastor Alan
Sunday 2nd April 2023 : Christ the King – from Exaltation to Humiliation
In many things the world runs on hate. Individuals, social groups and even nations openly express and show their hate for one another. People hate one another out of love for money, greed, and covetousness, with a lust for personal ambition, power, envy or revenge. The root of hatred is enmity against God, for hatred of one another is an expression of hatred against God. And it is this hatred that we see at the Cross of Christ where we see Jesus, Who is the Perfect Neighbour because no sin was found in Him, no guile came from His mouth, and Who always cared for others interest above His own. This hatred was expressed in condemning Jesus to death. After Pilate delivered Jesus over to be crucified, Jesus was whipped and beaten with rods, scorned and mocked, blindfolded and beaten about the head, spat upon and abused, and finally was hung upon the Cross to die that cruel death as a hardened criminal, reckoned among the transgressors.
Jesus was hated, scorned and rejected because He told the Truth – declaring that He is the Messiah-King, the Son of David. And it had to be this way! Isaiah (53:10) said, “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him; He has put Him to grief.” Jesus had to be declared innocent and yet treated as guilty so He could stand in our place, to be the substitute and pay the penalty for our sins. In Jesus Crucified, the Father transforms man’s highest expression of hate and rebellion into His highest expression of Love and Grace. It is in the Cross that we have a new heart to live a new life, being set free from the hate and corruption that consumes and destroys sinful mankind. In Christ, we are able to love as God the Father has loved us, able to put the interests of others before our own, and able to bring reconciliation and renewed relationships.
As we celebrate the Passion of Christ in this period of Lent, as we eat of the bread and drink from the cup, let us remember what suffering and agony our sins brought upon Jesus. ‘It was our sins that crucified Thee!’ Let us contemplate, remember and appreciate that His humiliation was for our salvation, and then give Him all the praise and thanks ‘that Jesus would do this for me!’, me, as a wretched sinner, and go out with thankfulness and joy, living the new life that is ours in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Pastor Alan
Sunday 26th March 2023 : I am Barabbas
Life is made up of choices. You choose whether to remain a victim or be a survivor; whether to be positive or negative; to be content or to be bitter; to be a giver or a taker; to fight on or simply give up; to trust in God our Heavenly Father or to be self-absorbed. At the Passover in Jerusalem in Mark 15, Pilate, the Roman Governor, gave the Jews a choice: Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews OR Barabbas?” Barabbas was a notorious criminal; convicted as robber, murderer and insurrectionist. He was waiting to be crucified. Jesus of Nazareth had been travelling around the country preaching the Kingdom of Heaven, performing many miracles and declaring Himself to be the Son of God – the Messiah. Now before Pilate, who is offering the people the choice, both stand for the charge of insurrection (i.e. leading a rebellion against the Roman Empire) and both represented hope to the people. Barabbas was fighting for freedom now, in an earthly kingdom – throwing off the Roman yoke by taking up arms. Jesus was fighting for freedom in the spiritual realm of the heavenly Kingdom. In this, Jesus was a big disappointment to the Jewish people, whose expectation of the Messiah was the political return of the kingdom of David. Now feeding off this disappointment were the Religious Leaders. They were obsessively determined to have Jesus killed so they could continue to rule the people for their own cause (Pilate perceived that it was out of envy that the Chief Priests had delivered Jesus up). They whipped the crowd into a frenzy, “Give us Barabbas!” Consequently, Jesus, Who had been declared innocent of guilt three times, nevertheless was given over to death on the Cross.
But behind this gross miscarriage of justice, was the amazing grace of God! He had determined that it had to be this way, so that Jesus as the unblemished Lamb of God could be offered as the atoning sacrifice for our sins – Publicly and Judicially declared Innocent and yet found guilty, and crucified. Yet that was God’s way of bringing salvation to His people. As we celebrate this season of Lent, considering the suffering of Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we do so with a sense of mortification that it was my sins that nailed Jesus to the Tree, my voice that cried out in the crowd that day – Yes Lord, I crucified Thee! And yet, also with a sense of amazement and joy that Jesus died, obediently, willingly and lovingly for me! This was God’s plan of salvation so He could reconcile sinners to Himself. Such Love, such sacrifice. Pastor Alan
Sunday 19th March 2023 : The Two Rocks
Peter was a fiercely loving and loyal Disciple of Jesus. He was a great man! The first Disciple called by Jesus; One of the three inner-circle Disciples; leader of the Twelve Disciples; got out of the boat to Jesus in the storm; confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God; was one of three Disciples with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration; stood up for Jesus in the Garden and cut off the ear of Malchus. His credentials are on par with the Apostle Paul! And to top it off, Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter as the Rock upon which the church would be built.
But there was a fundamental problem: Peter’s ego and his vision of the Kingdom. In the Upper Room before the arrest of Jesus, the Disciples had been arguing who of them was the greatest. When Jesus warned Peter that Peter would deny Him, Peter boldly asserted that he definitely, without a doubt, would remain loyal even unto death itself! Also, his vision of the Kingdom was one of an earthly political kingdom – that is why he pulled the sword in the Garden when Jesus was arrested, eager to start the revolution!
How could this bold, brash Peter be the ‘rock’ on which to build the church? Well, he couldn’t. Therefore he had to be broken in order to become the Rock upon which the church is built. The Lord broke Peter through his denials, broke the boldness and brashness of his ego and wrong vision of the Kingdom, and restored him as the Rock – the one who would preach that first Pentecost sermon which gave birth to the New Testament Church.
So, what can we learn from Peter?
One thing is that sometimes God has to break us so He can use us in His Kingdom.
Another is that we need to be Kingdom expanding and not empire building, by being humble and getting our egos out of the way!
Another is that we need to live in the strength of the Lord and not in fear. When we deny Jesus, putting a break in the relationship, we cut off the strength of His Spirit.
Lastly, when we do fall, there is always forgiveness and restoration upon true repentance. Peter wept bitterly in repentance and we see him restored by Jesus at the Lake of Galilee and go to preach at Pentecost. Pastor Alan
Sunday 12th March 2023 : Are You the Christ?
One of the most frustrating and humiliating experiences is being accused of a wrong you know you did not do, or to be called a liar when you are telling the truth, or when someone is out to get you and will use anything and any argument to make you look bad. Look at what our politicians do to one another, or how the media seems to make stories by innuendo. Don’t worry about the truth, just as long as you can score the point for your advantage.
Picture Jesus, arrested by stealth in the middle of the night, tried by a High Priest who is no longer in Office, faced by the whole council of the Sanhedrin while it is still in the night (thus an illegal session of court), bribed witnesses who could not get their story straight, having His words twisted to say what He never said, and then being asked to defend Himself. But Jesus remained silent. How can you make a defence when there is no charge? And then when the whole kangaroo court was on the verge of collapse, Caiaphas asks the ultimate question, “Are You the Christ?”, to which Jesus declared that He was indeed the Christ, the Son of God – which gave Caiaphas a charge he could use, the charge of Blasphemy. It is a bit of an irony that Jesus was charged and sentenced to the penalty of death for telling the Truth! However, it was part of God’s plan of salvation that, though innocent, Jesus should die on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sins.
In the rejection of Jesus through the ‘court’, the Religious Leaders had formally rejected Jesus as the Lord’s Messiah. As teachers of the Scriptures they should have recognised Him by the signs and fulfilment of prophecy. We see how hard hearts bring such utter blindness, along with rage and envy, as they defend their own religious empire, and this resulted in God’s Judgement on Israel with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD. They could not simply crucify the Christ and not be judged for it.
And that is a challenge to you and me, and all people. As sinners, we also crucified the Christ. Jesus declares that He is the Lord’s Messiah. Will you be like the religious leaders and deny Him as Lord and Saviour of your life, resulting in His crucifixion bringing the Lord’s Judgement on you also? Or do confess Jesus as the Christ, your Lord and Saviour, with His crucifixion bringing the Lord’s salvation? Pastor Alan
Sunday 5th March 2023 : The Curse of the Cross
The cross is a very popular and accepted symbol today. You see them everywhere; in churches, on churches, on pamphlets and books, even as jewellery! In fact, we even sing, “In the Cross of Christ I glory”! The Cross is the symbol of the Christian faith.
But you know, in the times of the New Testament, people would have been absolutely horrified and offended! To the Jews, the Cross was the sign of someone being utterly cursed by God. And to the Gentiles, crucifixion was their harshest and most cruel way of putting someone to death, reserved for criminals and slaves. It was against the law for Roman citizens to be crucified. Perhaps their equivalent of the cross today would be if we hung a hangman’s noose around our neck. Can you imagine singing, “In the Hangman’s noose I glory”?
Yet to us, as Christians, the Cross is a sign of great joy! It is a sign that Jesus has won the victory over the curse of sin and death. God had said to Adam & Eve, “The day you eat of the forbidden fruit in rebellion against Me, that day you will surely die!” Adam & Eve’s rejection of God’s rule as Creator brought death into the world. Instead of being under God’s favour in fellowship, they were now under God’s judgement in broken fellowship. The curse of sin and death now held creation and mankind in its grip. How can this curse be lifted and removed? Well, immediately the Lord God promised a Saviour Who would remove the curse of sin. And Jesus did so by the way of the Cross.
Why the Cross? Because Deuteronomy 21:22-23 teaches that if a man is guilty of a Capital Offence, he is to be put to death and his body hung on a tree for everyone to see as being under the curse of God. Jesus had not just to die, but also to suffer death in its harshest, cruellest, most humiliating form, and publicly, so that He would win victory over it and pay the penalty for our sins. In this way He shouldered the curse that lay on me – a sinner. The Cross is at the heart of the Gospel as the power of God unto salvation as it removes the curse of sin and restores us through forgiveness to fellowship with the God the Father. That is worth glorying in! Pastor Alan
Sunday 25th December 2022 : Peace on Earth!
At the birth of Jesus, the night sky was ablaze with a brilliant light with a ginormous choir of angels singing. What an amazing, magnificent sight that would have been – more impressive than the best performed Handel’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus’!
There they were, singing their hearts out, in perfect harmony in a spectacular display. What was it that they were so excited about? It must have been something very significant to have all those angels singing in the night sky. The angels, with great joy and praise, were proclaiming the birth of Jesus as they were singing, “Glory to God in the highest…” at what was the greatest event of all time – God visiting sinful mankind through the Saviour. There was never a happier announcement ever made: “I bring you good tidings of great joy for all the people. Today in the Town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord!” The angels have been waiting to hear this Good News! We see this in Luke 15:7, where Jesus tells us that there will be great rejoicing in heaven over the sinner who repents. The glory and grace of God at Christmas is that He, the Almighty Creator God, has reached down through time and history, through His Son, Jesus, to a rebellious, sinful human race to restore the relationship with Him. God’s glory is seen in the coming of Jesus where, on the one hand we see His anger, judgement and perfections in the judgement of those who reject Jesus as Saviour, and on the other hand, God’s abounding love, infinite mercy and amazing compassion to those who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour – God Himself, dealing with our sin and shame in His Beloved Son, Amazing Grace, worthy of all praise and joy and adoration.
We see the angels again in Revelation 5, thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand, a glorious celestial choir singing the “New Song” of salvation with all its verses at the end of time when, in the glory of heaven, Jesus receives all glory and honour and praise as the Lamb in the completed work of Salvation. What an absolutely wonderful sight that will be! May our celebration of Christmas be joined with the praise of the angels, singing our hearts out with joy and praise for God’s glory revealed in Christ, born in a stable in Bethlehem to die on the Cross at Golgotha – Jesus our Lord and Saviour. Pastor Alan
Sunday 18th December 2022 : Who is the Father of Christmas?
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I muse about who is the father of Christmas? As Christians we would immediately respond, God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ Who was born at Bethlehem; which is what Christmas celebrations are all about – the ‘reason for the season’, right?
So how come so many Christian Christmas celebrations have Santa in them? I remember serving at a combined churches Christmas community dinner and the MC giving a ‘Jesus – the reason for the season’ talk and right smack in the middle of it, “Santa” arrived decked in his red suit and a sack of gifts singing, “Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas everyone!” The MC made a huge fuss about Santa arriving – and the message of Jesus was pushed aside for Santa. We talk about doing “Secret Santa” gifts, but if Christmas gifts are about reflecting God’s greatest gift in Christ born at Bethlehem, why do we attribute our gift giving to Santa? Think about it: there is Santa, a white bearded benevolent grandfather figure, sitting in his throne, having children on his lap listening to their requests, working the magic of Christmas, with his workshop in the North Pole with little elves busy packing Christmas gifts, speeding around the world on his sleigh pulled by reindeers to dispense his goodwill and joy.
Surely it seems that Santa is in competition with Jesus for Christmas! In America even the language is changing from the greeting of ‘Merry Christmas’ to ‘Happy Holidays’! In fact (in America) the public display of nativity scenes has been legally challenged and are only allowed if they are not displayed as a religious symbol but as ceremonial deism – that is, as long as we all know it is just pretend. Here we have the battle of the kingdoms (the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan) being fought over the celebration of Christmas! In Australia, the nativity is still traditionally celebrated, but more as one of the many alternative ways of celebrating Christmas. Santa and the Christ-child are set alongside one another – just look at the light displays around the neighbourhood. But Jesus born at Bethlehem is not merely one alternative to celebrating Christmas – Jesus is Lord and King!
The question is, ‘who do you celebrate as the Father of Christmas?’ Pastor Alan
Sunday 11th December 2022 : Yet I will rejoice!
Sometimes, in a moment of cynicism, I ponder about what is the point of celebrating Christmas? It’s all a bit of a romantic ‘virtual reality’ fix, isn’t it? We eat too much, drink too much, spend too much, revel in the fantasy of Santa Claus, spread season’s greetings of good cheer (which we don’t really mean, but it is the season).
But when I stop looking at Christmas through the world around me, and look at God, then a whole new way of thinking overwhelms me.
Christmas is about the Glory and Grace of God. Christmas, Jesus God Incarnate, born as a baby at Bethlehem is a real, live, historic event! Jesus was born at a particular time, in a particular place, in a particular way to fulfil the prophecies God had given all those hundreds of years ago. It shows us that God is the Controller of History! And that is the crunch.
Christmas is not a romantic virtual reality fix at all; it is God controlling history to bring His salvation. Christmas reveals the glory and grace of God!
Now those Christmas hymns are no longer merely tradition that makes me feel good in their familiarity, but a glorious expression of praise of the wondrous saving acts of God, worked out throughout the history of mankind; beginning at Genesis right through until the end of time when Jesus Returns.
Christmas reveals God’s faithfulness throughout all of History. The whole Old Testament is about the coming of Jesus, the Lord’s Messiah, our Lord and Saviour, born in a stable in order to die on the Cross. And this brings great comfort and joy. We can trust that this is the real McCoy and not just one of the many ways to celebrate Christmas (Santa Claus; Great Aussie BBQ, Parties, etc.) because God is the Controller over history, and through history brought about His salvation. I no longer have a cynical view of Christmas but take great joy in the God of my Salvation!
How will you celebrate Christmas this year? Pastor Alan
Sunday 20th November 2022 : The Abomination of Desolation
Jesus had just told the Disciples something shocking! As His Disciples looked at the beautiful structure of the glorious Temple of Jerusalem that had been (and was still being built) by Herod the Great, Jesus told them that a time was coming that not one stone would be left on top of another; that is, it would be completely and totally destroyed. The Disciples were stunned; and they asked Jesus when this would happen, and what would be the signs.
In Verses 3-13, Jesus predicts what will happen before the Destruction of the Temple: False teaching, persecution and rejection. As the Gospel goes out to all nations there will be opposition. Therefore, do not be alarmed but be on your guard. Do not be anxious but rely on the Holy Spirit Who will empower you. Endure to the end!
In Verses 14-24, Jesus tells of how the destruction of the Temple will come about. It will be a further fulfilment of the Daniel prophecy of enemy forces coming in and destroying the Temple. At that time, you must flee to the mountains as the armies will not spare the people. False prophets and ‘christs’ will arise with their predictions and false teachings. They will be very convincing even to the point of leading believers astray. Therefore, be on your guard! I am telling you these things beforehand so that you can be prepared and endure.
Later in the New Testament, we have similar warnings from Jesus in the letters to the Churches in the Book of Revelation. The Churches are warned about false teachers, losing their first love, tolerating sin in the church, remaining unrepentant, being lukewarm in the faith, and are called to conquer and stand firm. Otherwise, Jesus will remove the lampstand from their church. As God withdrew His presence from the Temple, so also He will withdraw His presence from unfaithful churches. What are we to do? Jesus calls us to be on guard, not to be deceived by false teaching, and to conquer and endure by keeping our eyes on Jesus! Pastor Alan
Sunday 13th November 2022 : Living faithfully in a Time of Waiting
The Disciples were in for a big shock! After the confrontation with the Religious Leaders in the Temple ending with Jesus pronouncing seven curses on the Leaders, Jesus broke into a lament over Jerusalem, how He often wanted to gather them together a hen gathers her chicks under her wings and declares that their house would be left desolate. The Disciples pondered over these words and as they came out of the Temple and saw the magnificence, majesty and splendour of it with its huge stones and gold overlay. They felt overwhelmed by this symbol of God’s presence and they being His Covenant people.
In response, Jesus declares that there will not be one stone standing on top of one another that will not be thrown down. See this Temple, it will be completely razed to the ground as if it never existed. Well, thought the Disciples, that would mean the end of God’s relationship with His people! That must also mean the end of the ages when the Son of Man returns to bring in His Kingdom (Daniel 7). So, they asked when this will happen and what signs to look for. Then Jesus starts to say strange things, “See that no one leads you astray…” Actually, He prepares them for the time that He will not be with them (after Pentecost) as they will continue His work on earth, for the Gospel must be proclaimed to all the nations. There will be false teachers who will claim to be the Messiah and lead many astray. There will be wars and rumours of wars, nation rising against nation, earthquakes and famines. These are not signs of the end times, but the beginning of the new Gospel era which will see you persecuted and beaten by your own people. Even families will turn on families as the Gospel goes out into the world. But do not be anxious and
fear, take courage, for the Holy Spirit will be with you and equip you what you to say and to stand firm.
Mark 13 is about Jesus preparing His Disciples for Gospel ministry when He has ascended to heaven to sit at the Right Hand of the Father. Much has been made about signs and predicting the end times but it firstly about preparing and encouraging His Disciples for their task of Gospel ministry without Jesus among them. The Book of Acts records the Gospel going out into the world of which we today are part of. As we see the `signs’ let not be anxious or afraid, but strong and courageous as the Church we continue the Gospel work of the Disciples. Pastor Alan
Sunday 6th November 2022 : Suffered under Pontius Pilate
Have you ever wondered why Pontius Pilate is mentioned in the Apostles’ Creed? Pontius Pilate was not even a nice man. He came from Spain, found himself in Rome and managed to marry the daughter of Emperor Augustus. Pilate asked for the job of Governor over Judea, but he always got himself into trouble. He could not avoid political disaster, and here he was a frightened and egotistical man, worried about his political future, judging the trial of Jesus! So why was he mentioned in the Apostles’ Creed?
1). The mentioning of Pilate’s name was to date the event of Christ’s trial and crucifixion. Back in the days of Jesus, and earlier, events were dated by the rule of the King or Governor at the time (cf. Luke 3:1-2, introducing the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist). Pilate was a real historical person and so the Crucifixion of Jesus was a real historical event. Christianity is based on real historical events; it is not a “made-up” religion. Jesus was a real live person. Therefore, God’s promises are also real and trustworthy.
2). Pilate’s name is also mentioned because the trial and crucifixion had to be a whole-world universal event. Pilate as a Roman Governor represented the human court of Justice. As such he represented the world. The Jews rejected Jesus and sought his crucifixion and Pilate, although declaring Jesus as innocent, still delivered Jesus over to death. Both the Jews and Gentiles rejected Jesus, considering Him worthy of death. Jesus had to die on the Cross as the universal symbol of God’s salvation. For God so loved the ‘world’ – His salvation is for all people.
3). Pilate’s name is mentioned because as the Roman Judge representing the human court of justice, he declared to all the world that Jesus was innocent of any charge, thereby confirming that Jesus died as our perfect substitute – the Innocent One paying for the guilty, so that we, the guilty, may be declared innocent before the Father. See what the marvellous grace of God can do, that through the weakness, sinfulness and selfishness of all involved He works out our Salvation! Pastor Alan
Sunday 30th October 2022 : Jesus – made to be sin for us
The Gospel is about being saved. But saved from what? From the depths of hell? From the terrible things in life? We can easily form the picture of a benevolent loving God who saves us from the burning fire of hell, who picks us up, brushes us off and gives us a new crack at life.
But the Gospel of salvation is about saving us from God! That’s right, we need saving from God Himself. You see, the Lord God is a Holy God Who hates sin and demands perfection. Hell is the place created by God for those who come under His Just Condemnation for breaking of the Law. God is Holy and Perfect, and His Law shows us that Holiness and Perfection, and breaking the Law of God requires punishment. Justice must be served – we know that by how we get indignant when a criminal gets let off by the court. ‘He should be punished,’ we cry. ‘That is justice.’
God is Holy and Perfect, and demands justice on sin. If the Lord glosses over sin or hides it under the carpet, He denies his own Holiness and Perfection. The Gospel is this: that in His love the Lord arranges His Justice to be satisfied so He can be merciful. He did this by sending His Only, Innocent Son to die on the Cross as our substitute, to pay the penalty for our sins. The Gospel is more than just feeling good and special. It is more than what Jesus can do in your life if you choose to follow Him. You know how it goes: ‘Come, follow Jesus and He will do all these marvellous things in your life. He saved my broken marriage; He set me on the straight path; He is my Friend in times of need; He got me off drugs and into a job.’ Jesus is all those things, but He is much more. It is not just what Jesus can do IN your life, but what He does FOR your life! Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, in His Death on the Cross and Resurrection from the Dead, satisfies the Justice of the Holy and Perfect God so that the Father can be Merciful, and in Grace not only forgive our sins, but also have a relationship with each of us as His Beloved children! That is the Gospel! Wretched, sinful man is reconciled to a Holy and Perfect God through Jesus Christ by having faith in Him as Lord and Saviour, to which we respond with thankful praise and worship with every part of our lives. Pastor Alan
Sunday 23rd October 2022 : What is your motive?
Much is made of the story of the Poor Widow’s two small copper coins she placed in the offering box in the Temple. Many a preacher has used to teach about how we need to give sacrificially. But the Poor Widow was the victim of the Religious System that “…devoured the houses of widows…” (Mark 12:40). She was destitute, with utterly nothing to her name, because the Scribes (who gave her legal advice and helped her manage her affairs) had swindled her out of her estate. They used Religion to serve themselves and further their own causes; no wonder Jesus was so angry when He cleansed the Temple, “You have made the Lord’s House into a den of robbers!”
It is so easy for us to point the finger at the corruption and evil of the Religious Leaders but, in fact, we battle with the same sinful tendencies of being self-serving and using religion to further our own causes. How can we test our motives in religion? One author has written a ‘Hypocrisy Test’ (adapted) based on the words of Jesus in Mark 12:38-40:
- How obsessed are you with your appearance?
- Does what other people think determine your actions?
- Do you care too much about your status?
- Do you find your self-worth in your position?
- Do you fake your spirituality?
- Is your private life different from your public life?
- Do you really care for the vulnerable?
- Taking people where they are at and helping them without judgment?
- Is your heart full of the things of God?
- or full of self?
The Poor Widow, even in her destitution gave her offerings in faith and trust in the Lord’s promise to hear the cry of the Orphan and the Widow. Her trust points us to Jesus Who offered Himself completely, even to Death on the Cross, to meet our poverty in sin that we might be rich in salvation.
There is always hope in a dark world of sin and corruption – the hope of the Gospel. Pastor Alan
Sunday 9th October 2022 : The Final Invitation
I can remember hearing on Christian radio little sound-bytes how if you are down and troubled, Jesus can fix your problems. Jesus is the answer to all your problems. While that is true, I wonder how often we unwittingly turn Jesus into a magic genie to meet our perceived needs, and that we limit Jesus to being the “Fixer” of all our problems.
The Religious Leaders had that problem. They believed that the Messiah was the ‘Son of David’ who would come, restore the Kingdom of David, and make Jerusalem the political centre of the world. He would get rid of the Roman oppression and keep the Gentiles in their place. They had too narrow a view of Jesus, the Lord’s Messiah.
But the Christ, the Lord’s Messiah, is much, much, more than a ‘Fixer’ of our problems. Here in Mark 12:35-37, Jesus teaches that the Christ is certainly the ‘Son of David’ in His humanity, but He is also the ‘Son of God’ in His divinity. Both God and man.
If we make too little of Christ’s humanity, then we forfeit the comfort of His identifying with our suffering. Jesus knows, He has lived our human life on earth. He can sympathize with our weaknesses and provide grace in our time of need. We forfeit the comfort of knowing that Jesus is sitting at the Right Hand of the Father in our glorified humanity and so we need not fear death – He has gone on to prepare a place for us!
If we make too little of His Divinity, that He is God, then we make Christianity into merely another religion, a code of ethics and morals, something only for this life. But the Christ brought in a new Kingdom when He defeated sin, death and Satan on the Cross. As Lord, He sits at the Right Hand of the Father with all power, dominion and authority ruling over all things for the church. He has brought in a new humanity and will bring in a new heaven and earth. Salvation is in terms of eternity. With Jesus as King, we do not have to be anxious about the chaos and corruption of the world around us because Jesus has it under control and working it out for His saving purposes. Jesus is also the Lord of our lives calling us to live for Him and in Him.
What’s your view of the Christ? Pastor Alan
Sunday 2nd October 2022 : The Suffering of Jesus
We are all familiar with suffering. Just look around the world and turn on the news and we see suffering all around us. From children starving from hunger to wars between countries. Every part of our lives has been corrupted by sin, and the wages of sin is death; a living death in suffering through to death of the body. If everyone suffers, what significance is the suffering of Jesus?
Firstly, Jesus was innocent of sin and so not liable to suffer as the consequence of sin. Suffering was not His lot!
Secondly, Jesus chose to suffer the consequences of sin on our behalf as the Saviour. As the Angel said to Joseph, “You shall call Him Jesus because He will save His people from their sins.” Jesus, although God, left the glory of heaven to take on the corrupted human nature to die on the Cross to pay the penalty and suffer the consequences of your sin and mine! Jesus was born in Bethlehem to die on the Cross at Golgotha. And He suffered the humiliation of sin for His whole life.
Now, what does that mean for us in our suffering? It means that we will never suffer for our sins. God is not angry at us because He has poured out His anger at our sin on Jesus at the Cross. We are no longer under the Lord’s anger and judgement but now, in Jesus as our Saviour, are under His Love and Care. We still have to suffer as we live in a broken and sinful world but our suffering has been transformed from an expression of God’s anger and Judgement to the means of receiving His Love and Grace. It is like death. The wages of sin is death. Death is an expression of God’s anger and judgement. As He said to Adam, “The day you eat of the forbidden fruit you will surely die! In sin, Death is a separation from the love of God. But when Jesus died on the Cross and rose again from the dead, He transformed death into the doorway to heaven – a means of entering into the glory of the Father. So also, for suffering. As a child of God through faith in Jesus, suffering has been transformed as a means of receiving God’s love and grace and so drawing us closer to Him. We live in a broken and corrupted world by sin, but we also live in the transformed life by the Gospel, with Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. Therefore, let us not complain in our suffering, but look to see how the Father will bring His Love and Grace to bear, for He has promised to turn all things for our good! Pastor Alan
Sunday 25th September 2022 : Are you blessed?
History gives us identity. In Ephesians 2, Paul says “And you were dead in trespasses and sins in which you once walked… But God… made us alive in Christ.” In Titus 3, Paul writes, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray… but when the goodness and loving kindness of our Saviour appeared, he saved us…” You get the idea. Do not forget where you came from so you can appreciate who you are today. When we forget history and merely live in the immediate, we have to find our identity in our present status, which is why today there is no room for discussion, because disagreement is a personal attack on our identity.
As we witness the Baptism of Mercie this morning, it is a sign of her spiritual identity, ‘a child of God’. She belongs with the people of God, and her heritage goes back to Adam and Eve, Abraham and Moses, to whom the Lord gave the promises of the Covenant, “I will be your God and you will be my people.”
The Psalmist calls us to tell our children about their spiritual heritage! Tell them of the glorious deeds of the Lord, His might and the wonders He has done. This is their identity – who they are! And we are to tell them so that they too should set their hope on God and not forget His works, but keep His commandments. We spend a lot of time and resources preparing our children to live independently in the world: education, sports, recreation, but do we also intentionally invest that same amount of energy and resources in their spiritual welfare. The most important thing in life is to know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. Let’s rejoice and give thanks this morning as we witness Mercie being baptised. Rejoice in the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness. Rejoice in being His people and the blessings that are ours in Him, and let us tell it to our children!
This coming Sunday we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper, another sacrament of comfort and strength as it reminds us of Jesus and His suffering for our sake, that we could become children of God. Let’s prepare ourselves in this coming week and take the opportunity to put right anything that would hinder us from celebrating the Lord’s Supper next week. Pastor Alan
Sunday 18th September 2022 : Doing the Right Thing
We all hate injustice! It pushes our buttons. We easily feel we have been overcharged, underpaid, or undervalued. People march in the streets to protest against one form of injustice or another. Micah the Prophet lays out the Lord’s complaint against Israel as if in a court of Law. He outlines what good the Lord has done for them, and makes the charge against them that they practised an empty religious ritual, saying one thing with their mouths and doing another with their hearts and lives. But when the Lord lays charges against His people their response is NOT repentance, but rather to suggest more Religious Ceremony! The Lord responds that He requires His people to DO JUSTICE, LOVE KINDNESS and WALK HUMBLY WITH THEIR GOD. In other words, ‘To do the right thing with a heart of compassion, finding our strength in the Lord.’ We are called to bring the Gospel in Word and Action to bring transformation and change.
One of the ways we could do that is by supporting IJM. The International Justice Mission is a Christian organisation that seeks to represent victims in cases of sex trafficking, forced labour, slavery, abuse of police power, theft of property and citizenship rights. It also works with the governments of developing countries to improve justice systems. IJM statistics tell us that there are some 40 million people trapped in slavery today, from forced labour to sex trafficking.
If you wish to support IJM, you could register online. Just look up International Justice Mission Australia. Pastor Alan
Sunday 11th September 2022 : Are you blessed?
Are you happy? Do you want to be happy? We spend a lifetime of effort in pursuit of what we think will bring us happiness: a well-paid or high-ranking job, owning our own house, getting a boat or going on that overseas trip, close family relationships, freedom. But where can you find true happiness?
The Psalmist declares, “Blessed is the man…” – ‘Happy’. Actually it is more than a good feeling that reacts to circumstances. Blessedness is having a sense of well-being and contentment.
What is the key to this happiness? It is in choosing to disassociate with the ways of the wicked and to follow the ways of God, by delighting in His Word and letting it transform your life to serve Him.
The Psalmist shows us the pattern of falling into sin. It starts with ‘Following the crowd’, by taking on wrong thinking. Then goes on to ‘Doing what the crowd does’, by doing the wrong thing and justifying it as okay. And then to ‘Joining the crowd’, by living in rebellion and scorning the things of God. It is subtle; it can be as quick as a gossip session! And we are called NOT to live that way; Blessed is the man who does NOT live in the Way of the Wicked.
But there is another way – the Way of the Righteous. Blessing comes when we delight in the Law of the Lord and mediate on it day and night, to be immersed in the Bible and let it transform our thinking, feelings and actions, to let the Lord guide your way in life through the Bible and His Holy Spirit.
The result of that is that you will be like a tree transplanted by the water with its roots growing deep into the soil of the Word and Promises of God – providing strength in face of life’s storms, grace in time of need, the shelter of comfort and hope in times of despair, a fruitful and meaningful life, and anticipation for the glory of heaven! This is living under the Covenant blessings!
Psalm 73 puts it this way, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Are you Happy and Blessed? Pastor Alan
Sunday 4th September 2022 : The Father’s Compassion
Today is Father’s Day. Apparently, the founder of Father’s Day was Mrs Dodd of Spokane, Washington in 1909. It was her way of honouring her father, who raised her and her five motherless brothers. In Australia, Father’s Day was a topic of discussion in the newspapers from about 1911, and unofficially celebrated from about 1935. In 1958 the first Sunday in September was officially designated as Father’s Day throughout the Commonwealth.
Cynics simply dismiss Father’s Day as merely a marketing ploy to make more money, but can’t we ‘redeem’ these events that go on in the world around us and takes up so much attention?
This morning we consider how the Lord God is our Father, and how He through His fatherhood relates to us in love and compassion, not treating us as our sins deserve, but removing them from us infinitely. The Lord is not merely a stern God sitting in heaven demanding justice and punishing those to eternal damnation if they do not provide it! No! He is also our Heavenly Father standing at the gate each day peering at the horizon, looking for the dust rising from the feet of his returning rebellious but now sorry son, waiting to embrace him in love and forgiveness, reinstating him who once declared his father as good as dead, to sonship in his household.
Let us indeed with the Psalmist burst out into full praise and joy as we remember the “benefits” of salvation: the Holy, Majestic, Creator God comes to me, a wretched sinner, as my Heavenly Father, to adopt me as His Beloved! And so let Him be our pattern of fatherhood (and grand-fatherhood) to our children! Pastor Alan
Sunday 21st August 2022 : Love or Law?
A lot of harm and hurt has been perpetrated under the name of ‘Religion’, using religious customs and regulations to advance one’s personal cause and desires under the “blessing of God”. It was no different in the time of Jesus. The religious leaders had hijacked the religious customs and regulations of the day to serve their own causes and desires for power. Jesus put it this way, “You leave the commandment of God and hold to the traditions of men… thus making void the Word of God by the tradition you have handed down” (Mark 7:8,13). Later, Jesus declares a curse on them for shutting the kingdom in the people’s faces! How did that happen?
Jesus helps us understand this when He gives a response to the Lawyer who asks Him, “Which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus replies, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord your God the Lord is One! And you shall love the Lord your God…” They had lost sight of Whom they were to worship. Jesus reminds us that the Law of God is about shaping our love relationship with God. It shows us how we are to love Him in thankful obedience in response to His love for us, like marriage vows preserve and protect the marriage love relationship.
But when we separate the laws and regulations from the relationship, they become a weapon of power to dominate the other person. The laws then become a burden and bring fear. That is what the religious leaders did to the people. They made up all the traditions of the Elders to regulate their form of ‘holiness’, to feather their own nest of control. We see this at work in our society where individualism is so pushed that we need more rules in order to live in community. When we love and respect one another we don’t need more rules because love always considers the other person.
Jesus calls us to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbour as ourselves. When we focus our energies on this love relationship, then all the other matters will fall in behind. So, how are you living, by ‘Love’ or by the ‘Law?’ Pastor Alan
Sunday 14th August 2022 : God is not a Cemetery Keeper
When a loved one dies, we often speak about the comfort “that we will see them again in heaven”. More than that, we talk about “that we will be reunited with our husband or wife in heaven”. The Sadducees put forward that idea also when they confronted Jesus: ‘If a widow marries seven brothers, under levirate law, who will she be married to in heaven?’ Jesus replied that there will be no marriage or giving in marriage in heaven, because our relationships will be like the angels, a glorified relationship with immortal bodies.
The sad fact is that to comfort each other with the words “we will be reunited as husband and wife in heaven” is but romantic untruth. It is denying the Resurrection of the Body and the wonder of glorification, because it suggests that this life on earth will continue on in heaven. Like the New Testament superseded the Old Testament because Jesus is the fulfilment of the Old Testament promises and symbols, so glorification in heaven supersedes life on earth and is the final fulfilment of all God’s promises of salvation. Our glorified state in Jesus is the next step up from our earthly state as we are raised in immortality. There will be no more death that requires marriage to continue the human race; all God’s promises of salvation will be totally complete, and we will be so consumed by the presence of God that we will be complete in Him, and will not need one another to be complete as we do on earth.
Will we recognise each other in heaven? Probably, but the nature of our relationships will be glorified, with the Lord at the centre of our consciousness.
The Resurrection of the Dead is central to our Christian faith. Our hope is the glory of heaven, salvation applied in all its fullness. See the glory and wonder and fullness that the Lord has for us there! Pastor Alan
Sunday 7th August 2022 : Born of the Virgin Mary
What does the word ‘Incarnation’ mean? Do you know? It is a word that is in a number of our Hymns and Confessions. It is a word that describes something that is central and foundational to our Christian faith. It describes how Jesus who, in the very nature of God, took on the human nature to become our Lord and Saviour. In Philippians 2:5-8, the Apostle Paul describes the process and benefit of the Incarnation. Jesus, in His nature as God, lived in the glory of Heaven but was willing to give that up to take on the humiliation of human nature, born to Mary as a helpless baby, living on earth among the stench of sin, feeling all the feelings of being human – hunger, thirst, tiredness, finiteness. Jesus was willing to be cursed and mocked as the rejected Messiah, and, though innocent, to be judged as a callous criminal and suffer a humiliating death on a Roman Cross.
Why? Why would God want to do that? Why would He give up His glory in Heaven and desire to take on human flesh and suffer the deepest humiliation? It was out of His infinite love and compassion for a sinful humanity that was bound under the curse of sin – for you and for me, sinners, who have rebelled against the Lord God.
You know, we are quick to complain and be critical, revealing that we actually think we don’t deserve this and that we deserve better. What we actually deserve is God’s judgement! But the Lord comes to us in His love by sending Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for our sins that we might be called His “Beloved Children”. Have you ever really thought that through, about what Jesus was willing to go through for your sake and mine? He did whatever it took to reconcile us back to God the Father, even to taking on the human nature and dying on the Cross, suffering the Anger and Judgement of God – the withdrawing of God’s love. He suffered all that for me, …and you…and all who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
“Incarnation” is a big word with huge life-changing implications. It’s a good word to add to your vocabulary and meditate upon. The ‘Word became Flesh’. Thank God that He did! Pastor Alan
Sunday 31st July 2022 : Render to Whom it is Due
When reporters interview a person, they often have an answer (“truth”) in their mind that they are seeking. To this end, they frame their questions to get the person to admit to or give the information sought. They may also resort to ‘trick questions’ intended to trap the person with their own words in order to make them look foolish, incompetent, or appear untruthful. And that is precisely what the “Hunting Group” (Pharisees and Herodians) were doing to Jesus. Mark tells us that they were out to ‘trap’ Jesus in His talk (‘trap’ here means to set a trap to catch and kill a wild animal), to discredit Jesus in front of the people so He would no longer be popular with them. They asked a very loaded and potentially explosive question. “Teacher is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we as Jews pay them or not?” Taxes were a very sore point for the Jews, not only because every time they used the Roman Denarius coin it reminded them that they were an occupied nation, but also because of the coin itself! It had the bust of Tiberius on one side with the inscription ‘Tiberius son of the Divine Augustus’ and a woman sitting upon a throne on the other side with the inscription ‘High Priest’. They believed that the use of this coin was blasphemous, a breaking of the 1st and 2nd Commandments.
The “Hunting Group” thought that this trap was in the bag; if Jesus said “Yes”, then He would be seen by the people as a traitor (like the Tax-collectors). However, if He said “No”, then the Herodians would accuse Jesus of inciting insurrection and rebellion against the Roman Empire! Whichever answer Jesus gave, they had Him!
But Jesus knew their game and called them out on it, and gave an answer that absolutely flummoxed them: Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. Pay taxes to Caesar because of your obligation to pay for the benefits you receive as residents of the Empire, but worship only God.
The trap has been sprung, but on the “Hunters”! Caesar is rebuked for overstepping the mark into the things of God in declaring himself Divine,
and the Jews are rebuked for not giving to God the worship that belongs to Him. This leaves the “Hunters” amazed and marvelling at Jesus, for their sure thing had backfired…again. The “Hunters” became the hunted and that is the foolishness and deception of sin. Pastor Alan
Sunday 24th July 2022 : You’re Finished – But God Is Not!
“This is your last warning!” How often we have heard that from Mum or Dad as children. The ‘last warning’ meant that consequences were going to follow if we did not obey. Jesus and the Religious Leaders were having a confrontation in the Temple about authority. Jesus had come in, turned the temple forecourt upside down, kicked everyone out and accused the Religious Leaders of corruption. This was the final call to repentance, but they continued in the hardness of their hearts. The Parable of the Tenants was the consequence of not heeding the final warning! Note the patience of Owner of the Vineyard. He sends numerous servants to collect the agreed produce and share of the profits. For some 900 years the Lord had sent His Servants the prophets to Israel calling her to repentance. 900 years! As a parent, you give the first warning, then a second because they may not have heard or processed the first warning, but with the third warning would be the consequences! But the Lord persevered for 900 years!
Note also the love of the Owner in that He sends his beloved son, ‘Surely, they will respect my Beloved Son’. That was the Final Warning! The Owner comes and destroys the Tenants because they did not accept even the Son. And so now finally, the Lord’s Judgement has come. In 70 AD the Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, and scattered all the Jewish people. The Temple was never rebuilt nor the priestly office reinstated. God’s Plan of Salvation had been taken from the Nation of Israel and given over to the New Testament Church, with Christ as the Cornerstone.
Today, the Lord is still patient with bringing His Judgement, not wishing any to perish but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter3:9). Or, as Romans 3:26 puts it, “this was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” The Lord is indeed patient and loving, but He is not indulgent. He has given us, as sinners, every opportunity to repent and believe in Jesus! Jesus is His final warning and then Judgement will come! Do not tarry sinner, but heed the call of the Master. Pastor Alan
Sunday 17th July 2022 : By Whose Authority?
‘Authority’ is not a popular word in society today. Covid-19 mandates made us even more shy of authority. The thing is, we are told that we can do anything we want, when we want, and how we want. You can be anything you want to be. This individualistic approach doesn’t leave much room for authority. Even the police undermine the authority of the courts when they publicly bemoan its rulings. In Sri Lanka, the public undermine authority when they take possession of the President’s house and burn down the Prime Minister’s residence. This flouting of authority is nothing new. The Sanhedrin challenged Jesus, demanding He tell them by what authority He had cleansed the Temple, had stopped its worship and had told them all off for making it into a den of robbers. They were hoping to trap Jesus so he would be stoned to death by the people – either for blasphemy or for being a false prophet.
But Jesus answered their question with a question, exposing their motive, which was not to pursue the Truth but to attempt to hold on to their religious authority that was being challenged by Jesus. Jesus asked if the Baptism of John was from heaven or from man? The Religious Leaders were trapped by their own design. If they said John the Baptist was a true prophet of God, then they would have to accept Jesus also as the Lord’s Messiah, because the ministry of John was to introduce Jesus as the Lamb of God, come to take away sins. But if they said that John the Baptist was a false prophet, then the people would turn on them because they believed that John was a true prophet from God. Either way, their authority as Religious Leaders was on the line. So, they took a non-committal way, “We don’t know” – which also blew their credibility as Religious Leaders who were appointed in the Temple system to discern heresy and lead the people in true worship. But the current Temple worship revealed how corrupt they had become – ripping off the worshippers and making it difficult for them to worship at the Temple – and that is why Jesus had to cleanse the Temple.
But are we any different? As we battle with sin and sinfulness, we so quickly spurn the authority of Christ in our lives and even in the church. In confronting the Religious Leaders about their use of authority Jesus gives them an opportunity to repent, to come clean and profess the Truth. However, they chose to continue in the hardness of their hearts and, as leaders, came under the condemnation of Jesus, as we see in the Parable of the Tenants that follows. Let’s not be children of our culture with its anti-authority stance; rather let us be children of God, submitting to the authority of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Pastor Alan
Sunday 3rd July 2022 : Jesus is Lord!
The Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day One is a beautiful summary of the Gospel as it asks, “What is your only comfort in life and in death? And it goes on to answer, “That I am not my own but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ…”
What a wonderful comfort to BELONG to Jesus! To be under His Shepherding care and loving protection. I belong to Jesus because He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. And now I live under the providential care of the Father Who turns all things for my good, along with the empowering care of the Holy Spirit Who assures me of eternal life and makes me whole-heartedly willing and ready to live a new life for Him.
In belonging to Jesus, I live in the joy of sins forgiven, guilt removed and a new life by the Holy Spirit. More than that, the Father has made an eternal commitment to my eternal future by adopting me as His Beloved Child. I belong!
I have a guaranteed place in heaven when I die. I have God’s promises as my assurance, the Bible as my guide and the Holy Spirit as my encourager as I live each day. It means that the Bible is the umpire in our marriage and relationships, showing us how to love one another as Jesus has loved us. It means that when I confess, repent and put things right as far as possible, I can live with a clear conscience. No one can rattle the skeletons in my closet because they have been dealt with in Jesus. It means that I do not have to be afraid of the future, because God is in charge of that, as He works out His saving purposes in history. It means I have a whole new family – the church family with bonds for eternity. It means that I have a whole new way of thinking and living that brings the Lord’s blessing to me and others around me.
It means that I do not have to live in fear as I look at the craziness of the world around me! Jesus is ruling over all things for the Church. As Lord, He rules over the powers and forces of Satan and darkness, taking Satan’s intent to spoil all God’s good gifts and turning it into ways of showing His love and grace.
My comfort is that I belong to Jesus! What is yours? What keeps you going?
Sunday 26th June 2022 : True Worship
The Temple was the place where God dwelt with His people on earth. It was a place of worship, to meet with God through the sacrifices, prayers and worship. It was a place of repentance and seeking forgiveness, of worship and giving thanks to the Lord for all His benefits and answered prayers, a place to behold the beauty of God and to meditate upon His wondrous works.
But the religious leaders had turned it into a market place, a place where they ‘ripped off’ the worshippers and made a lot of money for themselves. The exorbitant charges made it very hard for the worshipper to worship at the Temple. The very place that was meant for finding freedom in God had been turned into a place where it was hard to find God! God had been pushed out of His Temple!
It leads us to wonder if we put any stumbling blocks in the way of others coming to worship God at Tanilba CRC? Have we “claimed” some of church for ourselves to make ourselves feel comfortable and meet our own perceived needs? Is our ‘welcoming switch’ only turned on outside the church doors over coffee, or do we also invite people into our lives and homes?
Jesus said that the Temple was the “House of Prayer for all nations”. I remember people at one church complaining that new South African immigrants were speaking in their mother tongue outside church, and so, instead of the church people being understanding and making the effort to invite them in, the new immigrants were shunned. Are we intentional about bringing the Gospel in the way we do church? Not just the preacher, but also in the way we relate to others?
True worship of God bears the fruit of righteousness. It is the Gospel in action in the way we think, feel and live, and in the way we relate to God and others. It is more than a religious ritual (doing the right thing on the outside). It is a righteous life (doing the right thing on the inside), a life that praises and honours God Who has loved us in Jesus His Son, and that love we then extend to others so that we may all enter together into the worship of God. Pastor Alan
Sunday 19th June 2022 : I will build My Church (II)
Jesus gave the explicit command to the Disciples to, “Go, make disciples of all nations…” and, “You will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” In other words, to continue His work of proclaiming and bringing in the Kingdom of God through the Gospel. But how were they to do that as 12 men? They weren’t! With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Jesus built His Church (Matthew 16:18) through the 12 Apostles, and the New Testament Church would then bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth as we see in the Book of Acts. The church was to be built on the four pillars of the Gospel: 1. Believers, filled with the Holy Spirit, 2. Teaching the Bible, 3. Fellowshipping in Love, and, 4. Submissive in Prayer. If one of these pillars was missing then it was not the church that Jesus is building (cf. Rev. 3:1). But what are the ‘characteristics’ of this church Jesus is building in very Gospel living?
Firstly, we see that they were filled with awe at the power and presence of God in the Gospel message that was authenticated by the ‘Signs and Wonders’. How did the people know that what Peter and the Apostles were teaching was really true? Acts 14:3 tells us that Paul and Barnabas were preaching boldly for the Lord Who bore witness to the Word of His grace granting ‘Signs and Wonders’ to be done by their hands. Today we have the Bible, God’s Word, which is self-authenticating and given witness to by the Holy Spirit. But the sense of AWE was not at the signs and wonders but the Gospel message itself! Today we have the same sense of AWE in worship as we consider what God has done in Jesus! If worship is boring and ‘Ho-Hum’ for you then you are looking in the wrong place. The Gospel itself is AWESOME that the Creator God should want and be delighted in my worship – me a sinner!
Secondly, we see that they “fellowshipped”. There was a special Gospel bond between them as Believers.
- They had all things in common; they were Brothers and Sisters in Christ without any distinction between them; therefore, they extended help to anyone as had need and each one using their gifts as God had given them.
- They had Gospel unity; A oneness of mind, praising God daily and eating together seeing everyone as equal regardless of wealth, position or employment.
- They fellowshipped in Outreach. The Lord added to their number daily, but it was the church that was instructed to ‘make disciples’! As they lived together as the church in Gospel transformed lives, they gave witness to the Gospel message. They would have lived and breathed and had daily conversations about the Gospel.
An ordinary Gospel transformed Church in reality. What about us here in Tanilba Bay? Do we reflect these characteristics? Pastor Alan
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