Sunday 5th April 2020
Today is known on the Church calendar as Palm Sunday. It is the Sunday before Easter when we remember the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. In this event Jesus publicly declares that He is the Messiah-King as He accepts the Royal welcome of the crowds. Before this, Jesus had told people to be quiet because His time was not yet at hand. Now it was time to begin His Passion – the time of suffering that led to the Cross – and Jesus publicly shows His hand.
The problem was that, while the people praised Jesus as the coming Messiah, they saw Jesus as a political revolutionary – one Who would lead the battle of freedom from the hated Romans. But Jesus came to bring the universal and spiritual Kingdom of God: Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins, reconciling sinful man with the Holy God, to fellowship with Him to His glory forever.
Another problem was that the people were awestruck by the power of Jesus – they looked at all the miracles He had performed. They wanted the power of Jesus to back their cause: political freedom. And we so often struggle with the same today – seeking the power of Jesus to back our causes, whether it is popularity, authority over others, not having sickness, or seeking prosperity and wealth, and the list can go on. But Jesus calls us to His ‘cause’ – to bring the Gospel to all nations; serving Him as our Lord and King.
A third problem was that the people rejected Jesus as their Messiah-King on His terms. One day they praised Jesus as the Son of David and the next they screamed for Him to be crucified! This rejection brought Judgement! In 70AD Jerusalem was destroyed. Jesus is not merely a (religious) choice – He is the King over the heavens and earth Who commands allegiance. He died on the Cross to reconcile us to the Lord God. If we shun Him as Lord and Saviour, we will face His Judgement.
In the Triumphal Entry Jesus declared Himself as the Messiah-King. It was a humiliating experience for Him, and the glory of the Gospel is this: in His Humiliation is our exaltation! (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 29th March 2020
The Covid-19 virus has us on the hop. It seems that there are changes being made to regulations each day! Now we are into some forwards and backwards on regulations, as reactions to the hurriedly made regulations set in. The Governing and Health Authorities are between a rock and a hard place. They have extremely difficult decisions to make. As the virus and its effects come too close to home when friends and family members die from it, we can begin to feel overwhelmed, anxious and a little fearful even. But in this rapidly changing and uncertain time, there is one immovable constant: the Promises of God, the Lord God the Creator and our Heavenly Father.
Psalm 46 tells us that even if the one very immovable thing in nature – that is the mountains with their power and grandeur – should fall into the sea, God remains constant, immovable, and unchangeable by any outside forces. And that constancy and immovability also applies to His promises! Therefore, encourages the Psalmist – WE WILL NOT FEAR! God is working it out.
The second thing the Psalmist encourages us to do is look to the Lord, His power and promises and so BE STILL! Be still and know that the Lord is God. Look up to heaven and then look out to the world. Look at the Covid-19 virus from God’s perspective. How in mercy, He is calling the whole world to acknowledge Him as Creator, as the Lord! How the Lord is shaking the nest of our western culture of laziness, indulgence, and sense of self entitlement. How being isolated calls us to be still, a time to evaluate our living before the Lord, how we are using His gifts of grace in nature and our lives.
“Do not fear”: the Lord is our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble – He has promised and made those promises real in His Son, Jesus of Nazareth. And, “Be Still…”: know that the Lord is God – He will be exalted among the nations. He is the Lord! (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 1st March 2020
The murder of Hannah Clark and her three children, and the suicide of her husband have rocked the nation. It was brutal, horrific and totally unacceptable. It was a betrayal of the innocence of his children and the intimate relationship with his wife: they had the right to his love and protection as father and husband. How are we to react to such a malicious and intentional act of murder?
Firstly, with Compassion. All of us, by the default of our sinful nature, have the potential to acts of violence; whether it be the murder of babies forming in the womb, (from the very place that should always be a safe place for an innocent baby), through to gossip intended to malign. In Matthew 6:22 Jesus says that anyone who is angry at his brother (wishes him harm) or calls him a fool, is subject to the judgement of murder before the Lord. As we all have the potential to harm others, we can be compassionate rather than judgemental.
Secondly, with Patience. This event is horrific in the extreme, and it will push psychological triggers and emotional reactions that people need to process and work through. We will see this event from different perspectives – but name calling and demonising is not a constructive way to deal with this matter. Let’s be patient with one another as we process this event. In Colossians 3:12 the Apostle Paul calls us to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Thirdly, with Truth. Let’s call things what they really are! We can try to understand the context to events without letting it be an excuse. Murder is never acceptable; choosing to be angry and letting anger drive your thinking and actions is not acceptable. As men we need to ‘call out’ (hold to account) other men when they do not honour their wives and children, and not hide behind ‘not wanting to get involved’ – if you know, you are involved. In Ephesians 4:15 we are told not to be blown backwards and forwards by wrong teaching/thinking; instead we are to speak the truth in love, so we will be built up in Christ.
Lastly, but not exhaustively, with Respect. In Matthew 22:39 Jesus, in summarising the 10 Commandments, calls us to love our neighbour as ourselves. In Ephesians 5 wives are called to respect their husbands, and husbands to love their wives as Christ loved His Bride, the Church, always seeking the best for her, even to the extent of laying down His life for her! We meet this violence and ‘intimidation of intimate partners’ when, by the Lord’s grace, we treat one another with this Biblical respect!
Ultimately, as Christians we believe the answer to intimidation and violence is to be transformed by the Holy Spirit into a Biblical way of thinking and living by giving our hearts in faith to Jesus Christ. In Jesus we have the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to love and forgive, to make things right and treat one another with respect. (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 23rd February 2020
Many people live in fear; a feeling of disempowerment and helplessness. It is not unusual at times to feel overwhelmed by life and things being out of control. This fear, however, is not part of God’s created order; it came about as a part of the curse of death on creation when Adam and Eve deliberately rebelled against the Lord God. How do we deal with our fears?
Simply put, by Believing in Jesus as Lord. As He calmed the wind and the waves and protected the Disciples from the elements, so He also calms the storms of our life and gives us peace. Think of the greatest storm and fear in life, Death, which is the penalty and corruption of sin: mankind condemned by God’s anger on sin. Jesus as Lord laid down His life on the Cross as payment for sin and took His life up again in the resurrection from the grave, conquering sin and death and the power of Satan. In Jesus our Lord, our fear of death becomes an act of worship – because Jesus as the first-fruits (the One Who goes on before us) of the Resurrection guarantees our resurrection from the dead too!
When we commit a Christian’s body to the elements it is with a sense of celebration: He or she has gone to be with Jesus in the Room He has prepared for him/her (John 14:1-3). The fear of death becomes the worship of Jesus, the conqueror of death, our joy and comfort as we face our own death. Jesus as Lord brings us from fear to worship as we face life believing and trusting in Him as our Lord and Saviour. (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 16th February 2020
In our western culture we are ‘wired’ to achieve; to perform and reach satisfactory outcomes. We measure each other by what sort of jobs we have, what wages we earn, what kind of houses we live in and the cars we drive. They all make up a picture of how we measure people; we consider them successful if they achieve this stuff.
And often we have the same thinking in the church; we measure a ministry a success by how many people attended; we set outcomes for what we will achieve, say, double our congregation by 2025 and are disappointed if we do not achieve our goals (we must be doing something wrong!).
But you know, the Kingdom of God doesn’t really operate that way. In 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, the Apostle Paul teaches that God chose what was foolish to shame the wise, and the weak to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in this world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.
To put it simply, God brings the significant from the insignificant.
Why? So that no human might boast in the presence of God.
Our boasting, our achievements, our goal setting and significance are to be found in the Lord and His work in our lives. In living the Christian life, our thinking needs to be transformed from the western culture default of what I am achieving to letting God be at work in me. God is bringing in His Kingdom by His power, and we have the privilege to participate in this! When we look to Jesus as the Head of the Church and seek to serve Him and allow God to be at work through His Word and Holy Spirit, then God will release His Gospel power in our lives.
Elsewhere the Apostle Paul confesses ‘I worked harder than any of the apostles, though it was not I but the grace of God that is within me’. The western culture seeks significance in outcomes and performance – our achievements. The Kingdom of God, however, works significance from insignificance. Be faithful in the little things and God will work out the big things. (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 9th February 2020
Once a couple came to our door; they were Jehovah Witnesses. I listened to them for a while and then asked them, “How do you dare to come to people’s doors and offer a religion that is not certain?” You might be saved if you do these things and worship in this place; you might be one of the 144,000 reigning with Jesus in heaven … Why would you want me to put the trust of my eternal destiny in a bunch of ‘mights’? The way I read the Bible, if you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour through True Repentance and Faith, then you are adopted as sons of God and will reign with Jesus in heaven forever. Why would I want to give that up for a bunch of ‘mights’?
Now that raises the question, “Is the Kingdom of God a certain thing?” Is it something in which I can place my trust for my eternal destiny? How do I know that when I die it wasn’t all a big religious hoax? You see, when we witness to the Gospel then we are asking people to do precisely that: to put all their eggs in one basket.
The thing that sets Christianity apart from every other religion and philosophy is that salvation is God’s work in us. God created the world for His glory, then we ‘mucked it up’ in Adam, and since that day in the Garden, God has been working out His plan of making things right between Him and us. This plan that He has brought in – Jesus Crucified and Resurrected – He works in us through His Word and Holy Spirit. Because salvation (being made right with God) is the work of His Divine Grace (including being adopted as sons of God!) it is by its very nature certain, as God Himself is certain. It is on that basis that we dare to declare the Gospel message! (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 2nd February 2020
We all know that there is something wrong in the world. And when that something wrong impacts us, the question is often asked, “How can God let these terrible things happen?” If God is the God of love, why doesn’t He do something about the hurt and pain and misery in the world?
How would you answer that question?
You see, underlying that question is the accusation that the wrong in this world is God’s fault! It is somewhat ironic that God is often asked not to be part of our lives. He is belittled and ignored, with Christianity being pushed out of the market place; and then when the chips are down, God is blamed! Well, whose fault is it that there is something wrong in the world? Not God’s! It is ours!
He created the world perfect. However, mankind rebelled through the sin of Adam when he and Eve decided that they did not want God to be in charge of their lives. This put the whole creation under the curse of God’s anger. The wrong things in this world are the result of people making bad choices and others being hurt by those choices as we follow the selfish desires of our hearts. If we do not live by the order and pattern that the Lord as Creator has set, then bad things will happen. A fish cannot be a fish if it lives out of the water. A train cannot run if it does not stay on the tracks. How can God let this happen? By giving us the choice of love, and Adam chose badly.
But you know, God is doing something about the things that are wrong in this world. He is restoring the relationship that Adam and Eve broke. He sent Jesus to die on the Cross to turn away His anger and satisfy His justice. When we repent and believe in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, the Lord also gives us new hearts that want to love and serve and care for others.
What is God doing about it? He sent Jesus, His One and Only Son to pay for the sins of those who repent and believe, and restores them into a loving relationship with Himself. That is called the Gospel! (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 26th January 2020
Today is Australia Day! It is day when we are able to reflect and celebrate what it means to be Australian and live in this vast and diverse country called Australia. For most people it will mean BBQ’s and parties, concerts in the park and picnics, camping, fishing and boating, Tennis Opens and cricket matches; generally having a good time! For others it is about a citizenship ceremony which is often at the end of a long journey. And for yet others, a day of hurt and remembering injustices. So what does it mean to be Australian?
The mythological Australian is seen as the swagman larrikin who thumbs his nose at authority but still submits to it; who is quick to lend a hand and willing to give anything and everyone a ‘fair go’. What then is important to Australians? Is it freedom, sports, mateship and owning your own home? Australia is often called the “Lucky Country” and I wonder if we truly realise how blessed we are to live here. There is a tendency to take our great blessings for granted; to live with a sense of entitlement, as if we deserve what we have.
However, Australia is God’s country; He designed and created it with all its beauty and grandeur, in its pleasantness and harshness. All that we have belongs to Him and we hold it in trust as stewards for Him. When we think ‘Australia’, let us think, “The Lord’s!” and give Him the praise and honour for it.
And so, Australia Day is about celebration, celebrating the greatness and goodness of the Lord God Who has gifted it for our use. I am proud to be Australian and delighted to live in this blessed country – warts and pimples and all – as God’s steward of His blessed gifts. (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 19th January 2020
Have you ever had the experience that something was so wonderful that it was unbelievable – like a dream and so you pinch yourself to see if it is real? The Israelites were returning from the Captivity in Babylon. King Cyrus of the Medes had conquered Babylon overnight and sent back the Captives to their homeland with the Temple articles and the means to rebuild the Temple. They were back in their homeland; back under the promises of God. They shouted for joy and with gladness!
And yet, the former glory of the Temple is missing: No Ark of the Covenant, No Shekinah glory of smoke, no glory and riches – in reality just a shell. The Temple being a lesser temple was to pave the way to the greater Temple of God: Jesus Christ.
In Jesus, Gospel restoration comes in all its fullness and glory. The sacrifices of the Temple that could never take away sins would be replaced by the once-for-all-sacrifice of Jesus. The Old Covenant that required obedience of the people would be replaced by the New Covenant with the obedience of Christ and His payment for sins on the Cross.
As Christians today we can relate to the Returned Captives. We have the joy and gladness of the Gospel – being saved and having the new life in Jesus. But we do not yet have it in its fullness. So we sow with the tears of pain, brokenness and disappointment, but reap the joy of Gospel gladness. And we look forward to coming “home” to heaven where there will be no more tears, death, crying or pain – but all things will have been made new.
Let us with all believers live today in the joy of the Lord’s grace and compassion, with the anticipation of the fullness of glory of heaven in the future. (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 12th January 2020
The Royal Commission exposed corruption within the churches of Australia, especially that of sexual abuse. In fact Cardinal Pell (the highest ranking clergy in Australia) has been jailed, being convicted for sexual abuse of altar boys under his care. The church has fallen into disrepute to such an extent that in the eyes of many, pastors are seen as people not to be trusted. The charge is that you sing songs of love and preach healing but where is the safety of the church!
It was like that with Israel in Captivity in Babylon. They sat by the waters of Babylon and wept for Zion; for Jerusalem, the seat of God’s promise. And the Babylonian soldiers mocked the Captives, “Sing! Sing your songs of Zion the city of the great God! – but it is our gods who reign!” And the people said, ‘How can we sing?’ Here we sit as God’s own people in captivity, as slaves in a foreign land – where we deserve to be, because we have rebelled and rejected the Lord our God. We have only gotten what we deserved – that is our despair.
We could say the same of the church today, as we receive news of another Pastor being convicted of sexual crimes. So, what is the future? It is the same as always! Repent and return to the Lord.
It is His church. Salvation is His purpose and plan. He promises forgiveness and a new start upon true Repentance: submitting the heart to faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour and bowing the knee in obedience to His Lordship. When Israel repented, the Lord God decimated the Babylonian Kingdom overnight and restored the people, temple and city of Jerusalem. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation! Therefore, while our reputation in the eyes of the community is in disrepute, there is renewal in the power of the Gospel. Believe it, live in it, have hope and joy from it. (Pastor Alan)
Sunday 5th January 2020
It is the first Sunday of the New Year and a new Decade! How does the New Year look to you? Some live in fear of the future. Psychologists write that school children are suffering from a new condition called ‘eco-anxiety’. Basically they feel that they are going to die soon from a natural holocaust. This brings a sense of hopelessness. Others feel overwhelmed by what seems to be an unending line of disasters and tragedies happening.
What are we to think about these things as Christians?
As God’s people we live with confidence and hope, even in the face of hopelessness and despair. Why? Because God is the Creator, and is Sovereign over all things. He is working out His plan and purpose to bring about Peace, Hope and a Future in our lives and in world events. Whatever the future brings, it will be under the control of the Heavenly Father as part of working out His purpose and plan through Jesus in history.
The Lord God created mankind to fellowship with Him for His glory, and God is busy through Jesus His Son restoring that fellowship with Him by calling to repentance a rebellious mankind – which may include tragedy as the means of extending His grace. Remember, Satan wants to spoil all God’s good gifts, but the Lord uses the evil intent of Satan to bring about His purposes of salvation.
Think about the Cross, the highest expression of sinful mankind’s rebellion and hate, and yet the Lord transforms that same Cross into His highest mark of Love and Acceptance in Jesus Crucified. Indeed, we can be content and confident as we trust in the Lord. Our God reigns! (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 29th December 2019
I tried watching the Myer Bowl Christmas in the Park on TV the other night. It was astounding how much effort and performance was put into Santa coming! In the part I watched, the nativity scene was a non-event. A bit like the first Christmas, the coming of Christ was almost a public non-event – just Joseph & Mary, the Angels, Shepherds, the Wise Men, Simeon & Anna, and a few who were awaiting the consolation of Israel.
Why such a small number for such a history changing event? Because, the Israelites had a different expectation about the Messiah. They were waiting for a Messiah-King Who would come with an army to drive out the Romans. They were not expecting a baby! And yet, in God’s plan of salvation it was this baby, the Christ-Child, Who would bring the light of revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Israel. How?
Through division and heartache, Jesus as Lord and Saviour died on the Cross for our sins, and His death confronts us with our sins – as it reveals the thoughts of the heart.
Who do you say Jesus is? If you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, then His Word shines into the darkness of your sinful life and renews it to His ways of Holiness. If you do not believe in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, then you will remain lost in the darkness of your sins and the consequences of it.
Santa is not threatening! We all know that he is a myth that allows us to feel good without any challenges. The Child in a manger however is another story altogether! As the Messiah, He ‘reveals the thoughts of the heart’ and calls for a response with eternal consequences’. You cannot simply romanticise it! I can well imagine that the nativity scene will become more and more a non-event in our televised Christmas in the Parks; it is less threatening that way. (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 22nd December 2019
“Jesus is the Reason for the Season!”
That’s what we say as Christians. But is it true? Can we declare that Jesus is the real reason for Christmas, and Santa Claus with other Christmas stories are but myths? Isn’t it just something for Christians to celebrate? That is good question.
Our children are getting into trouble at school for insisting that Jesus is the real reason for Christmas! It is interesting that Doctor Luke writes his Gospel to present Theophilus with an ordered account that he may have ‘certainty’ concerning the Gospel. Luke believes that he is writing his account based on historical and true facts. He presents the credentials of Joseph & Mary, and Simeon and Anna to show that they are trustworthy and reliable witnesses to the fact that the Baby Jesus presented at the Temple was the Messiah – God’s promise of salvation to His people and the Gentiles.
The conclusion? Jesus is the Messiah, God’s Salvation to the whole world. He is not merely a Jewish story, but the universal Saviour! Not merely a Christian religion thing, but the Saviour that has come for the whole world.
And so, without any apology, we can declare that Jesus is the Reason for the Season. And that He has come as the Saviour for the Whole world – in fact what we think of Jesus will determine our eternal destiny! But more on that next week. (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 15th December 2019
What’s the point?! Why do what we do for Christmas? The Christmas tree, the decorations, the parties, the get-togethers, the carol evenings, the presents – with the delayed surprise of the credit card bill at the end of the next month. Why do we do it?
“It’s Christmas!” But what does it really mean? Is this Christmas Cheer a façade, a sophisticated excuse to party? Is it simply a romantic interlude to our hectic lives? Or simply something ‘nice’ for the children? We have all sorts of motivations and expectations of Christmas.
In Luke Chapter 1, we find Zechariah’s Song in which he sings about the coming of his son, John the Baptist, and how his task is to prepare the hearts of Israel for the coming Saviour, Jesus Christ. Why did their hearts need preparing? Were they not eagerly anticipating the coming of the Messiah-King? Yes, they were indeed. But their expectations were that this King would come and drive out the hated Romans from their land and re-establish the Kingdom of David in all its glory as the political capital of the world.
However, the reason why Jesus came was to bring the forgiveness of sins; reconciling a sinful, rebellious mankind to the Lord God. Without repentance and forgiveness (being reconciled to the Lord), the nation of Israel as a political world power would have no meaning. It would be an empty structure.
Jesus was born at Bethlehem to be the Saviour – to bring Forgiveness of Sins. If our Christmas celebration does not have that at the heart of it, it is but an empty ritual. The ‘reason for the season’ is God’s forgiveness in Jesus Christ, Who was born in Bethlehem to die at Calvary – our Lord and Saviour. Let’s celebrate Christmas with a sense of Joy and Wonder that the Lord God should come to us in the Christ-Child, and then let us share that Good News with others. (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 8th December 2019
What does Christmas do for you? How do you celebrate Christmas? Some dread Christmas! It reminds them of disappointments and being alone. Others prefer to ignore Christmas – the Bible does not command it to be celebrated, or, it is all so commercialised!
But perhaps there is another way to look at Christmas. Rather than considering what it does for you, maybe we should consider what it does for God? After all, it is His miraculous event in history.
Humanly speaking, Mary was going through a terrible time. She was about 13-14 years old, engaged, from a backwater town of Nazareth, and now pregnant. Under the law that would be a stoning offence. Her fiancé wants to break it off with her, and people probably speculated she was pregnant from a Roman Soldier, as Nazareth was on the outskirts of a Roman Garrison. But in her terrible time there was a unique event – the Angel Gabriel had announced that Mary was chosen by the Lord to give birth to the promised Messiah!
Mary’s Song of Response shows us how to celebrate Christmas. It is a song of Praise and Wonder about the mercy and faithfulness of the Lord God through history leading up to this event, the birth of Jesus, Who was born to die on the Cross for our sins, reconciling us through faith to the Lord God.
Whichever way you may choose to celebrate the day, bear in mind that there is no Gospel without Christmas. Let’s celebrate the event with a sense of wonder and praise in our hearts that the Lord would send His Son in this way, would do this for me, an undeserving, rebellious sinner!!! (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 24th November 2019
There are many voices in society crying out, “Come and follow me!” From ‘Climate Change’ which will save the planet from destruction, to gurus of self-determination and awareness, to causes for freedom from (all types of) oppression, to you deserve a happy life – if you will follow these steps. All these voices promise better things for you if you will join their cause. And that is the ‘crunch’ – they are all just ‘causes’. The True Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is something on another level altogether. In fact, by repentance and faith in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, you enter into a new reality, which is the Kingdom of God – a new reality that brings a new relationship in being reconciled to the Lord God, the Creator of the universe, with a new set of values in following the Lord’s pattern for living found in the Bible, along with a new heart in being forgiven, living in and loving with the love of the Lord, and a new eternity, living in the glory of heaven.
The Bible teaches there are only two ways of living – in the darkness in the Kingdom of Satan, or in the light in the Kingdom of God. Everything else is but a “cause”, a movement, which may or may not bring change; but it is not the new reality of the Gospel which guarantees the change of new life in Jesus Christ. In Mark 4, in the Parable of the Lamp, Jesus calls us to understand that the Gospel is true and real, and Jesus calls us to live in that new reality that the Gospel brings, to let the light of the Gospel shine in the darkness of this world which is under the rule of Satan. Will you live in that reality? (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 17th November 2019
When Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan into sin and rebellion against the Lord God, the Lord sought Adam out, confronted him with his rebellion, and made a promise. This promise (Genesis 3:15) was that a descendant of Adam would be born to be the Saviour of the world by defeating Satan. But for a line of descendants to be born, there needs to be a nation for that family line to be preserved for generations.
So the Lord raised up Abraham as the Father of the Israelite nation, with the Promise of the Covenant: “I will be your God and you will be My people” (Genesis 15:1-14). And for a nation to survive, it needs laws and a religious system through which to have a relationship with, and worship, the Lord their God. And so we see in the Old Testament, the Lord God providing the sacrificial system.
But this sacrificial system was not adequate to take away (pay for) sins; that is why day after day the priests made sacrifice. Why did the Lord accept the sacrifices if they did not take away the sins of the people? Because they were given in light of the perfect sacrifice that was to come in the Death of Jesus Christ; the Perfect High Priest. It is like accepting the payment of a credit card – that payment at the till has no value in itself, but it promises payment when it is lodged at the bank. And so it is with the sacrifices and Jesus. The Old Covenant with Israel was based on ‘good works’; if you obey Me I will bless you – if you do not obey me I will withdraw My blessings. The history of Israel shows that we cannot obey the Lord in our own strength.
It needs something else – and that something is the (Re)New(ed) Covenant with Jesus as our High Priest offering Himself as the perfect once-for-all-time sacrifice for sins in our place. We can obtain that forgiveness in Jesus through Repentance and Faith in Him as our Lord and Saviour. In the New Covenant, God’s promise is still the same: “I will be your God and you will be My People”, but the basis of the relationship is not obedience through our own strength, but the obedience Christ provides for us by Repentance and Faith in Him. And that is why it is a new and better Covenant! (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 10th November 2019
How does the Christian faith work? Is the church a club you belong to? Is the Church a group of people with a common religious interest? How do you get into the church community?
In the times of Jesus, the people were expecting a mighty King to come and lead them in war against the Romans and rebuild Jerusalem as the political capital of the world – like it was in the time of King David. They thought that Jesus was the man with power to lead them in this war. But in the Parable of the Sower, Jesus teaches that the Kingdom of God is not earthly or political, holding people together by outward laws and structures.
The Kingdom of God is about being reconciled to the Lord God by repentance and faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, which comes through the Gospel message. And so, the Kingdom of God is spiritual in nature – it renews from the inside out, loving Jesus by faith and so living for Him not by Law but in thankfulness. The Church is made of Believers joined together by faith in Jesus Christ.
The Parable of the Sower shows that there are different heart responses to the Gospel message; a hardened heart that rejects the Gospel; an impulsive heart that seeks what it can gain from the Gospel; a pre-occupied heart that is distracted by anxiety, wealth and pleasure; and, a responsive heart that by the renewing work of the Holy Spirit believes in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Being aware of the different heart responses helps to understand why people come and go in the church.
But it is also a warning for us; we can have these heart responses too, even as we live the Christian life! A heart hardened in bitterness; a heart that seeks what it can get and is disgruntled if it is not done our way; a heart that gets pre-occupied with the things of this world.
So let us encourage one another in the faith! The glory of the Gospel is that we do not have to remain in that state of heart. The Lord promises forgiveness on true repentance, and the Holy Spirit renews our hearts to Him again. (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 3rd November 2019
‘Reformed? Reformed from what? Have you guys come from a juvenile centre?’ This was often a comment in earlier days – so it was decided to add the name “Christian” to make it more what type of Reformed we are. So why the name “Reformed” in our church name, ‘Tanilba Christian Reformed Church’?
Well, a name often declares an identity or value. For example, the Baptist Church is called that to reflect that they hold to Believer’s Baptism. The former name of the Anglican Church – the Church of England – reflects that the queen was the official head of the church. The Pentecostal Church reflects that they hold that they are a church from Pentecost – that the extraordinary gifts shown at Pentecost still hold for us as Christians today. When our forefathers started the Reformed Churches of Australia, their desire was to make clear that the Reformed Church has its roots in the Reformation.
In what is known as the Reformation in the 1500’s, the Protestants rose up against the teachings of the Catholic Church. The main issue was about ‘How are we saved by Jesus Christ?’ The Church at the time taught that in His death on the Cross, Jesus paid for your original sin (inherited from Adam), with forgiveness of that obtained through Baptism, but you had to pay for what you did wrong in this life by good works. And if you did not have enough good works, you would go to Purgatory where your unpaid sins were purged by the time spent there, and then you would proceed on to heaven.
No! No! No! said the Reformers. The Bible teaches that all our best efforts are still tainted with sin; we simply cannot earn our way into heaven at all! No! It is only by the blood of our Crucified Jesus that we are made right with God. It is the work of Christ, and Christ alone. We obtain this salvation by faith which the Holy Spirit works in our hearts. Salvation is by the grace of God as His free gift. This belief became a catch cry, “Saved by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, in Christ Alone.” The Reformation was simply a return to the Gospel! The name ‘Reformed’ means coming from the Reformation which is all about the Gospel! We are a Gospel believing church indeed! (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 27th October, 2019
Often we like to think of the Gospel in “nice” terms; kind, patient, loving, accepting – ‘God is love’ and ‘Jesus loves you’ sort of thing. And it is that, but there is so much more to the Gospel. It is also about eternal consequences (eternal life with Jesus or eternal condemnation in hell), which centres on the honour of God as Creator, Jesus as Lord and the Holy Spirit as the One Who empowers.
In Mark 3:28-35 Jesus confronts two groups of people with very serious warnings! One group was the Church Leaders who charged that Jesus was in partnership with the devil and the Holy Spirit was actually a demon! They wanted to dehumanise Jesus and demonise Him to make Him look evil, so that the crowds would no longer follow Him and their position as Religious leaders would be safe – in other words, a vicious and evil smear campaign. In no uncertain terms, Jesus tells them they have crossed the line and that there is no forgiveness for such an evil and heinous sin (if the work of Jesus is of the devil, it follows there can be no forgiveness of sins because the work of the devil is to destroy, spoil and oppress). They are condemned to eternity in hell.
The other group was the Family of Jesus who considered Jesus to be ‘out of His mind’, obsessed with the popularity of the crowd. In their unbelief, they had come to take Jesus away into family custody for His own good. But this action denied Jesus as Lord – it also said that Jesus was not to be followed as Lord. Jesus could not allow His family to deny or distract Him in His work as Lord and Saviour, bringing the forgiveness of sins upon true repentance. As Lord, He was establishing a new family – the Family of God, where believers were adopted as the sons and daughters of God. The spiritual family of God is not to be usurped by the family of relatives.
But here we see the mercy of God in the promise of Jesus (verse 28) – all sins and blasphemies of man will be forgiven (but not the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which is what the Church leaders did!). We see in Acts 1:14 that the Family of Jesus was in the Upper Room with the Disciples waiting for Pentecost – for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on the churches. They had repented, become believers and were forgiven! The Gospel is “nice” to salvation but it also condemns to hell! May the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ be your saving grace. (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 20th October, 2019
The question throughout the ages has been, “Who is Jesus of Nazareth?” Is He a Lunatic, a Liar or the Lord?
The family of Jesus thought that Jesus was a Lunatic – out of His mind. They thought that Jesus had become obsessed with the attention of the constant large crowds and had got carried away with their demands. They considered that He was doing all sorts of strange things, which only seemed strange because at that time (John 7:5) they did not believe He was the Son of God (in Acts 1:14, we see that later they came to believe in Jesus as Lord).
The Scribes, who had come down from Jerusalem representing the Sanhedrin, came to the verdict that Jesus was a Liar – that He was not the Son of God at all but in partnership with the devil! He got the power to cast out demons and heal people from the demon world, and so they encouraged people not to follow Jesus!
Jesus, however, declared that He was Lord; Jesus Christ – the Son of God Who brought forgiveness of sins in response to true repentance. The work of Jesus, as seen in His healing and the casting out of demons, was to set people free who have been enslaved by Satan. Jesus was liberating them from Satan’s Kingdom; that is the exact opposite to the work of Satan, whose self-proclaimed work is to enslave, corrupt and destroy. So the verdict of the Scribes was absurd! But also evil! (More about that next week).
Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Christ – the Son of God Who came to bring the Good News of God, Repentance and the Forgiveness of Sins.
Who do you say Jesus is? (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 13th October, 2019
There is a saying, “God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things!” And that is the life of the Church; ordinary people used by God to do extraordinary things. We see this when Jesus appointed His 12 Disciples, just 12 ordinary ‘you wouldn’t believe He would pick them’ men! They were fishermen, farmers, political agitators and tax-collectors. No Harvard graduates, white collar workers, Clerics, nor Captains – nope, just 12 ordinary men. Jesus goes up the mountain, prays all night to the Father, comes down and appoints 12 ordinary men to be His Disciples. In fact they are more than that – they are commissioned as Apostles, His “Sent out Ones”, as His official representatives.
Meanwhile, the church leaders are enraged at Jesus and now plot to kill Him. The Cardinals of Jerusalem, official delegates from the Sanhedrin, have come down from Jerusalem to investigate Jesus and make a verdict about His authenticity as a Teacher. Jesus is now on the journey to the Cross as opposition grows and will eventually condemn Him to death on the Cross. In preparation for His Death, Resurrection and Ascension, Jesus appoints a group of men to continue on His work of the Gospel; calling people to `Repent and Receive the Forgiveness of Sins’; to build the church! And whom does He choose? 12 ordinary men. Later we see Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, preaching at Pentecost, and some 3,000 people repented and believed – the church was born!
The Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 2 that the (preaching of the) apostles were the foundation upon which the church was built. You and I will never be apostles – that was a calling only to these 12 ordinary men, but when we, by faith in Jesus Christ, have the Holy Spirit living in our hearts and the Bible in our hand, we can do extraordinary things for the Kingdom! One of which is to (continue to) build up His church! You and I have also been called by Jesus, through faith, to be His Disciples to continue the work of the Gospel wherever He places us in life. Let the Lord work the extraordinary through us ordinary people! (Pastor Alan)
For Sunday 6th October, 2019
Everybody would agree that there is something wrong in the world! Some would say that we are on the verge of extinction because of the Climate Change Crisis. Others say that President Trump should be impeached. The Rohingya people, some one million of them, are still in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Others seek equal pay, others equal rights, others a voice. Slavery still exists in epic proportions in the world. Domestic violence is till prevalent, and terrorism leaves half the world living in fear. Let alone the natural disasters of drought, bush fires, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and cyclones. And then, the disaster of Brexit and other political unrest around the world. What about broken relationships, terminal illnesses, suicide and mental health issues? There is definitely something wrong in the world!
Where does this `wrongness’ come from? What has caused the world and mankind to be broken the way that it is? Some say it is ignorance; we need to be educated. Others blame the environment: we need better housing, higher paid jobs. Other put it down to inequality, and so the list goes on. But these are only addressing symptoms at best. The Bible tells us that the root, that the reason, of all our problems is sin. The broken relationship between the Lord God with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. As the Creator, Who made the heavens and the earth, and as our Heavenly Father, God always demands that `we are to love Him above everything else.’ But Adam and Eve decided to be as god and be in charge of their own destiny. They rebelled against the demand to love God above everything else and brought the curse of sin on all creation.
How can we fix it? Well, the Lord God gave the solution in the Garden of Eden, He was sending a Saviour to pay the price for our sin (to turn away God’s anger) and put things right again. If we are truly sorry for our sins (for rebelling against the Lord God) and believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, then we will be saved: that is, be made right with the Lord. At the Judgment, the Lord will set the creation free from the curse of sin and make it new again. Meanwhile, as followers of Jesus, we are called to redeem (make things right in) the world by applying the Gospel in returning to, and following, the Lord’s pattern in creation in all things. We all agree that there is something wrong in the world – the Bible tells us that something is sin. (Pastor Alan)