The sermon for 31st January 2016 is now available on the New Life web-site.
In this sermon, which is based on Jeremiah 1:1-10, I talk about God’s call on our lives.
“Truly no prophet is accepted in his home town.”
In the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus reads from the prophet Isaiah and then announces that this Scripture has been fulfilled. The people are amazed at His words.
Jesus then goes on to say that they will want to see a sign like the miracles He performed in Capernaum. He says that no prophet is accepted in his home town and gives examples from scripture where it was Gentiles who were healed not Israelites.
This infuriates the people, and they drive Him to the top of a hill to throw Him over the cliff. But Jesus just passes though them and continues on His way.
The reaction of the people in Jesus’ home town seems extreme. From approval they move quickly to deadly rage. I believe that this must have had some kind of demonic origin in order to stir up such rage.
Part of the problem is that Jesus did not fit into the box of their expectations of the Messiah. They wanted miracles on demand, but He refused to play their game.
God never fits into our expectations. We want Him safely locked into a box to be pulled out when required. But God is bigger than our boxes, and His plans are more comprehensive than we can imagine.
Lord please help me to pull back from putting demands and limitations on you. Amen.
An excellent article by Ralph Neighbour about the true nature of the church
The True Meaning of the Church
by Ralph Neighbour
When the average Christian hears the word “church” the immediate mental image is either a building or a large room in a religious structure with a platform and a preacher. Example: people say, “Are you going to church today?” This is a typical illegitimate use of the word. The question refers either to the building or the public gathering conducted there.
“Church” is not a Bible word. It comes from the German Kirk, defining a religious edifice. It is a bastard term birthed in the fourth century to define religious structures. Adolf Schlatter (1852–1938), Evangelical theologian and professor at Greifswald, Berlin and Tübingen, refused to use the term in any of his books, substituting “Community” for the word.
Jesus introduced the word ecclesia in Matthew 16 and then in chapter 18, used it for the second and last time. In the first reference, He described its mission: kicking down the gates of hell. In the second reference, he instructs how an ecclesia would deal with disputes between its members. Two members should settle issues together or invite a trusted third person into the negotiation. If that were to fail, it was to be presented to the ecclesia as the Supreme Court for a decision. The term ecclesia must refer to a community small enough for close fellowship to exist between all members.
That is why Christ’s body should be viewed “Cell” by “Cell.” Each is a basic Christian community where the intimacy Jesus described is present.
I had not earlier in my ministry grasped the size of “church” Jesus had in mind! How large could the gathering be Jesus used in Matthew to refer to ecclesia? It was obviously small enough for each member to be intimately connected with two persons in conflict.
I began to see that the 12 disciples were actually the prototype size for Jesus’ ecclesia. Twelve is approximately the number of people who can relate intimately to one another.
“Cell” defines the “Basic Christian Community,” the ecclesia, not the word “church.”
Jesus taught the ecclesia to “love (agape) one another.” 52 more times in the New Testament, we are called to consider how to connect to “one another.” The expression of dismembered body parts, sitting in rows, is described by the word “church.” The authentic “one another” life is found in the “cell.” The first word is cold, impersonal. The second word denotes what Paul called for in Philippians 2: “Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
The biblical description of life together in the ecclesia demands an intimate family of God, not an impersonal assembly of God. The destruction done to the authentic ecclesia by the use of the word “church” to describe it is massive! Let us join Schlatter and refuse to use it!
And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
I can speak in tongues and prophesy or give all my possessions away. But without love these seemingly godly things are useless.
Love always looks to the other, being patient, kind and bearing all things.
Love is eternal. Prophecies and knowledge will come to an end. Just three things will last- faith, hope and love. Of these the greatest is love.
Everything I do must be done from a place of love for God and love for my neighbour.
Many deeds in the christian life can be done for the glory of the doer. Only those done in love will last.
Paul tells us we can do supernatural or spiritual things such as prophecy, or have faith to move mountains. Unless our hearts are centred on God these things become worthless. So all of our worship, all of our programs, all our work- it’s all without value unless genuine love is at the centre of it.
Lord please help me to love you and my neighbours more and more. Amen.
“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you
And before you were born I consecrated you
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Jeremiah came from a priestly family and the word of the Lord came to him during the reigns of the last three kings of Judah- Josiah, Jehoiakim and Zedekiah.
The Lord says that from before Jeremiah was born He had appointed him a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah resists, saying he is only a boy. The Lord tells him that He, the Lord, will protect him as Jeremiah goes with the message.
The Lord then touches Jeremiah’s mouth and says that He has put His word in Jeremiah’s mouth, and Jeremiah will be used to pull down and raise up nations.
It is important to remember always that the word of the Lord is in us in the form of the Holy Spirit.
I may not have the internationally influential ministry that Jeremiah had, but as long as I obey the Lord’s directions, I can be sure of His presence and protection.
Lord I often feel inadequate for the task you have called me to, just like Jeremiah. Thank you that my calling is not dependent on my ability but on yours. Amen.
Possibly the finest Australian poem- just for Australia Day
The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes.
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins,
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft dim skies
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!
A stark white ring-barked forest
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes,
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops
And ferns the warm dark soil.
Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die –
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.
Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold –
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.
An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land –
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand –
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.
A thoughtful piece by Don Aitkin about the purpose of Australia Day
As Australia Day approached I kept getting new messages about what it was about. One was that it would cause the largest number of claimed ‘sickies’ every recorded by Australian employers on Monday, because the holiday fell on Tuesday. Another was that I would show myself as a true Australian by having a barbecue in the backyard, having bought the right tools from a hardware store. Another said I should be eating lamb on Australia Day. Yet another, from Adam Gilchrist, a former Australian of the Year, was that I could do almost anything (I think), as long as I stopped to think about what it meant to be an Australian.
I do think about that matter quite a lot, and wrote about it, in the context of Anzac day, three years ago. Let’s start with the issue of having such a day at all. It is a tribal festivity, one where we remember that we are part of a tribe. I’m not much into tribal stuff myself, and can’t stand the ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi!’ chant. But every nation, so far as I know, has such a celebration. It is a time where we see (and say) that we are distinctive. We are ‘us’. In our case, being a large island continent (not forgetting Tasmania) makes that sense perhaps sharper than might be the case elsewhere. Perhaps not. Maybe one’s sense of national identity is sharper if there are foreigners on several borders, as with Switzerland.
Australia Day is a time of celebration. What are we celebrating? Two distinct though inter-connected matters. The first is the reality of contemporary Australia, a rich, safe, well-connected, stable, aspirant democracy that has few problems in comparison to most other nations. Lots of people want to come here, and indeed our population grows steadily as we admit each year about as many immigrants as the net increase of native births over native deaths.
It is not that we lack problems. Australian society could be improved in many diverse ways. But here we need to recognise that intending and actual immigrants see our country as enormously better than where they are coming from. They are prepared to work hard and build a place for themselves, learn the new language, and shape the future of their children who, they hope, will become successful in their chosen walk of life. People have been doing this for two hundred years, since the colony of New South Wales began to open its doors to free settlers.
Our ancestors and ourselves have built a nation to be proud of, and on a day like Australia Day we can take pride in our achievements and those of our parents, grandparents and so on. Yes, there’s been some luck in it. Australia proved not to have an inland river system like that of the USA, but did have a lot of useful land, and underneath that land were useful minerals. We are still exploiting them, and will go on doing that for a long time to come. Australia was dealt some handy cards. And we are a hard-working lot ourselves.
Read the full article here
Stephen McAlpine writes:
In the incessant push by the culture to justify most (not all, yet) types of sexual behaviour in society, one of the primary methods employed has been to show the poverty of thought behind the orthodox Christian view of sex.
One common method (if the recurring Facebook memes, blogs and articles in liberal journals are any indication) is to show the inconsistency of Christians when it comes to observation of the Old Testament laws in books such as Leviticus
“You’re all over the sex prohibitions like a, er, rash!” claim the articles, blogs, memes and letters to the editor, “But what about those crazy food laws? Christians don’t seem to keep them.” The charge of hypocrisy/stupidity/wilful hatred is then trotted out, and Christians who don’t know any better are left with a feeling of dis-ease. Yes, what about those food laws? And what if those sex laws are no different?”
Even today I saw another round of the aforementioned “List of things the Bible also prohibits” in the Huffington Post, published, of course, to give good well-oiled, well-heeled liberals something to chuckle about around the dinner table. You know the type, they don’t have any orthodox Christian friends, but their sister once dated one called Stanley.
The argument is a crock of course, and it shouldn’t take the Christian very long to debunk it. I say “shouldn’t” because a surprising number of Christians who hold an orthodox position on sexuality don’t know how to reject that response, and a depressing number of Christians who no longer wish to hold an orthodox position on sexuality, don’t wish to reject it.
If you are in either of those camps, then listen up. The problem you have is not simply that you do not know the Bible. By that I don’t mean you don’t necessarily know chapter and verse for things (the Huff Post article writer seems to know Leviticus pretty well after all). I mean that you do not know how the Bible is put together, how it leads in a certain direction, and most importantly, how it is fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus.
Having a clear understanding of Biblical Theology will provide you with a convincing argument against the culture’s current push, and it will debunk the memes and articles so slavishly written and read. (Of course at this point if you don’t wish to be convinced, look away now).
The answer to the vexing “all food is ok, but some sex isn’t”conundrum is answered by Jesus himself in Mark chapter 7. And here’s the brilliance of it: Not only does Jesus show how and why the food law are redundant in the new age of the Holy Spirit which he inaugurates, but he uses that very redundancy to demonstrate that the sex laws still do apply, in fact they apply all the more! Brilliant eh? Brilliant just like Jesus.
Read the rest here
We live in a battle, a war for our souls, that continues right through our life on earth.
Many christians misunderstand the nature of the battle or the purpose of their lives for that matter. Being hoodwinked by an easy gospel (“Just say this prayer to get into heaven”) robs them of the ability to follow Jesus day to day.
Jesus’ command to all his disciples is this: Follow me.
The invitation starts now, not in the next life. From the moment when we say “Yes” to Jesus we find ourselves embroiled in a war that never seems to ease. It feels like we are being torn apart by God on one side and the devil teaming with our own fallen nature on the other side.
Why does God allow satan such authority in our lives as to be speaking a constant stream of lies, enticements and suggestions?
That is because we are being trained for eternity. The goal of God’s great project that has run over several millennia is to raise up a race of men and women who have faced every testing imaginable and come through with undiluted devotion to walking in the ways of purity and holiness.
In this daily warfare that we call life, every time we say “No” to temptation is a victory, a step forward. Every battle won, no matter how small, is a strengthening of resolve, an advance in holiness.
Even our defeats are not defeats at all when seen this way. I failed this test, this temptation, but now I look again to my Lord and Redeemer, and I see another weakness that will be made strong in His grace.
The trouble is that in our defeats we believe the lies of the evil one. We believe that we are not good enough, that we are broken and beyond salvation, or that this sin will for ever define us.
Don’t believe the lies. Look to the Lord. See His never-failing love, even as He welds new plates on to your armour.
Step by step, battle by battle, small victory added to victory, we become holy, more and more like Jesus, transformed from glory to glory.