Friday, October 6, 2023

God keeps his promises.

I am writing this little message with a particular situation in mind.

Over many years I have cared for a number of people approaching the end of their lives, many have never understood what a wonderful saviour Jesus is.

Some have had a negative experience of church from childhood, (I certainly remember as a child, that church services felt prolonged, and tedious, and certainly not fun. But some I have spoken to have had much worse experiences than this). If finding God meant you had to turn up to a church and try to enjoy something you’ve avoided most of your life, it just wouldn’t sit right, I’m guessing.

But the great news is that God is not limited to a church building on a Sunday morning. To have peace with God, you don’t actually need “organized religion”, for want of a better term.


God loves us so much that he sent his son Jesus, so that anyone who believes in him can have everlasting life.   It is really that simple.


Do you want peace in your heart? Do you want a clean slate? Do you want to have all your sins forgiven? Do you want to be with Jesus, in heaven, when you leave this earth?


The thief on the cross next to Jesus, realized that Jesus was Lord, and asked him, even as they both were dying, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom”.


 Jesus heard him and responded.


What did he say to him?

Did he say, well you should have attended church and gone to confession, and prayed more, and read your bible more, and helped the poor, and devoted your life to goodness?

Did he say, you’re a criminal, you made your bed, so now lie in it?

Did he say, you’re a hypocrite if you expect me to listen to you; you never gave me a passing thought, and now that you know you are dying, you want me to overlook everything you’ve ever done, and welcome you with open arms like the father of the prodigal son?


No, Jesus did not say any of that, though some of us might think that would be appropriate.

Instead, he said, without hesitation, “Today you will be with me in paradise”.


Just like that Jesus accepted the faith of this man, who clearly was moved by the character of Jesus who was crucified, though innocent, and had prayed “Father forgive them, because they don’t know what they’re doing”.


As far as I can tell, that criminal died and went to heaven without ever setting foot in a church building. Jesus paid the price for all his sin, on the cross.


This is the Jesus I love. This is the Jesus I trust. I believe he forgives us this freely. There is no other way, no other name, no other saviour, only Jesus.

Yes, I do go to church, and I love it, and I probably contribute to the boredom for younger children, but I go to church because I believe Jesus has treated me the same as that criminal.


If you would like to have a relationship with Jesus, don’t put it off, ask him now. Pray to him now, privately, ask him to forgive you, to be with you, to care for you, just like the criminal on the cross and every other person who has needed a saviour over the centuries. He is good and trustworthy and full of love and mercy. He will answer your prayer, and you can have peace with God right now, and heaven with Jesus in the hereafter. This is the paradise that Jesus promised, and God keeps his promises.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

The silence of God

 When I think about my relationship with our heavenly Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I am aware that there have been a small number of times in my life when I strongly hoped for a clear, audible, communication, from God. Even when I have not looked for spoken answers, I have occasionally spoken my prayers out loud in times of yearning. But mostly, when I am praying alone, my prayers are silent, within my mind and heart. In all of those instances, I have not heard an audible voice or reply. And the silence that I experienced, I mostly interpreted as "don't alter course". What I mean is, I was probably looking for a door to open, or permission to change my life to an easier direction, when life was getting hard, which I assume, we are all tempted to do. For example, when do we leave a job, a church, a place of residence, a marriage? The last example is a little different, and I probably should not have included it, as there is clear teaching on marriage in the bible. 

Strange as it may sound, I was naturally the sort of child that needed permission to move. And still I do not like changing my course without clear direction or permission. God obviously knows this about me. 

Wouldn't it be amazing if God simply "broke his silence" every now and then, to add certainty to our difficult decisions?

But my experience, and probably everyone else with faith, is that God is mostly silent in terms of the miraculous, heavenly, audible speech that we may sometimes dream we might receive.

But God does speak to us in many other ways.

We should not be surprised at his "silence".

Rarely, in the Bible, do we see examples of God speaking an audible word. He spoke with Adam "Where are you", to Cain "Where is your brother?", to Abraham, when he received his promise. To Moses in the burning bush, and to Samuel "Samuel". And all the prophets had direct messages in one form or other, that allowed them to record "Thus sayeth the Lord".

But how many of these encounters were from God himself? Some of these events are later described as the Angel of the Lord. In other words, messengers representing God. This causes someone like myself to wonder was it God himself or an angel. For example when Jacob wrestled with God.

In the new testament, it was the angel Gabriel that visited Mary. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, received a number of guiding dreams, and he responded to them.

We know from Acts chapter 2 and Joel, that God pours out his Spirit and gives his servants dreams and visions.

And I have experience at least 3 vivid unforgettable dreams and one instance of my earthly fathers voice calling me by name and waking me up (as he often did), though on this occasion he was miles away in hospital. (It was the day my father died, and once I woke to his voice calling me, I knew that this was from the Lord, and that this was the day of his departure).

 The holiness of God is also worth considering. He is truly unapproachable and ineffable. Yet he is not far from any one of us! (Acts 17:27)

But the point I would like to get to is that our Lord Jesus himself experienced God the Father's audible voice only twice; at his baptism, and at the transfiguration. He did not hear his Father's voice in the desert during his fast, in the garden when he wrestled with the cup before him, or on the cross when he cried out "My God, my God why have you forsaken me".

The obvious parallel is that we should likewise also not expect to hear the audible voice of the Father, even in our darkest hours. But what Jesus never let go of, is the word of God, which was in his mind and heart, and which he quoted often, both for himself and for his hearers.

And like our Lord Jesus, we have this word, and we are blessed to read and dwell in that word.

 And on Sundays, when we meet together, the word is read publicly and the word is expounded by members of our church. Surely this is a time when God ministers to us and speaks to us inwardly through his Spirit. By faith we know that God hears us, our prayers are a gift for us and others, God acts to bring good  to us in every situation, especially the painful ones. Faith is not weakened by silence, and accepts the outcome of every situation. We do not put God to the test, and we live by every word that comes from the mouth of God, which, in my understanding, is the Bible.

Romans 1:20 (NIV) For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

1 Timothy 6:15-16 (NIV) —God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.



Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Who should get healed?

This may sound like an unusual question. But God says he makes the rain fall on both the sinners and saints alike.
Matthew 5:45 NIV
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Is healing any different?

Modern medicine has helped many, many diseases. In my working career as a doctor, I have seen a small but significant number of illnesses benefit from major breakthroughs which are rightly celebrated. Apart from this, the availability of care and medical help is a great blessing in our country.
Medical care is not determined by faith, though there are disparities in our country, as well as probably all countries. As Christians in the health field, we are in an excellent position to care for those who would otherwise miss out, regardless of faith, level of education, cultural background or any other factor.

The healing ministry in the church is probably a lot wider than what we think. How many countless prayers are silently prayed for loved ones suffering illness? What of the countless Sunday morning prayer lists in all sizes, styles and denominations of church across the globe? 

Are these "ordinary" prayers heard by God and answered?

For some Christians, it is important that God miraculously heals today, apart from and independent to medical science. Some refuse to visit a doctor, even a christian doctor. And for other Christians, there needs to be scientific medical proof before any faith healing is believed.

But I want to mention the “miracle” of our human bodies, with inbuilt healing qualities/abilities that are truly amazing.
As an infant we learn to speak and walk and other normal skills, but we never learn to heal, it just happens. We graze our knee, and are blessed with the gift of pain, the gift of crying, and then the gift of coagulation, the gift of fibrin and scab formation and then the gift of re-epithelialization. Full healing occurs over a few short days without our intervention, skill, or even thought. And there are countless internal mechanisms keeping all of our organ's functioning, which we are totally unaware of. How many cancer cells do our immune system destroy before, eventually, in the occasional person, one takes hold?
For some Christians, there is a need or even a demand to see God at work in miraculous healing.
There are scriptures that state strongly that Jesus’ followers will do greater things than he.

John 14:12-14 (NIV) Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

How many lepers did Jesus heal?
Maybe 20? No more than 50 from my quick recollection. But modern medicine, now, has a cure for leprosy.
How many people of faith were involved in the discovery of such cures. I actually have no idea, but more than we imagine. I am aware of stories of breakthroughs in science coming to those who pray. And what of the current leprosy mission, staffed by people of faith, offering funded treatment to those who are unable to access this?
Do these things “count” or are they too ordinary to satisfy those promises?
I’m not sure that I have ever personally seen a dramatic miraculous healing. I believe they happen. I pray for people to receive such healing. But I accept that God may answer these prayers in ways that are unexpected.  I have seen many of my patients recover when they were considered unlikely to. In my understanding, prayer is part of this. God is part of this. He can and does strengthen parts that we already have, such as our immune system, or the wisdom of those making decisions. To me this is as strong a work of the Holy Spirit, as a blind person receiving their sight. But maybe faith is needed to see this!

Hebrews 12:12-13 (NIV) 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Naaman had to wash in the Jordan river 7 times.

Sometimes, we have to do ordinary things to receive healing, like submit to the expertise of people who do not share our faith. Is this God letting us down? Or is he giving us opportunity to relate to others we otherwise would not?
In all things God works for the good of those who love him. We believe this, especially when our prayers are met with what some might interpret as silence.
And what of partial healing? I suffered a significant disc protrusion earlier this year. A number of people were concerned for me and prayed for me. Those payers were answered. I am much better, but I still limp. To me, I am as good as I would ever hope to be, and I am thankful. Is my disc still protruding? Probably yes. Is that a blessing? In my eyes, yes.

And what about later in life, should we expect ongoing healing forever? When is it OK to allow nature to take its course? We all must face physical death up to he time of Jesus return. Our Saviour faced suffering and death head on. He could have prayed and legions of angels would have rescued him, but he did not save himself. He accepted death. There was a greater need than his need to stay physically well and alive. It was our sin. He died for our sin. And we know that probably all the apostles died a martyr’s death. And today there are more martyrs than in the first century. How does that fit with an expectation of instant prayer healing?
Stephen the first martyr was a great example of how we are to face suffering.

Am I anti-miracle-healing? 

But I see it rarely, and I do see the disappointment and questioning of sincere believers when prayers for healing are seemingly unanswered. I do not believe it relates to a lack of faith. Faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains.
God has a time and purpose for everything, including healing and suffering, and disability. Our need to have things fully healed may be due to our fear of illness and disability, or our fear that God may not be with us in these things, or our fear of dealing with people who do have permanent disabilities, or our fear that God is not in fact strong, mighty, present, and able to do these things easily.

Love drives out all fear. 

We should continue to pray for each other, including for our healing. Paul tells us in Thessalonians to pray without ceasing. If we are really in need, I think fasting is worth a go, and I am also into kneeling.

So who does God heal?

Psalm 103 tells us that he heals all of our diseases.

Who is he speaking to?


Thursday, May 11, 2023

If I Wrote a Tract

Christians believe in Jesus.
We believe he died by crucifixion but 3 days later, came to life, not because he wasn’t properly dead, but because he was able to break out of death. We actually believe he defeated death, like a superhero destroying an incredible monster. But his power was not like a superhero. It was the power of a perfect life, with impeccable moral purity, utter innocence, true holiness, resisting all the temptations of the devil, as well as humble submission and obedience to God our Father.
Christians believe Jesus is alive right now as a resurrected man, in heaven, and that soon he will return, the true king of all creation. We believe he is God. God’s son, but also fully and truly man.
He has the power and authority to judge the moral failures of every person in all of history, and forgive the sins of those who love him, and sentence those who don’t.
But Christians aren’t motivated by fear.
We believe that God is love. And that it was because of his great love, that God, the father, sent his one and only son Jesus, to be one of us, at the very first Christmas.
To forgive even the smallest sin, he had to legally pay the price of every sin, and that price is death. Yes death is a terrible punishment, but the death penalty is exactly what Jesus suffered in order to meet the strict legal requirements of forgiveness. If you ever forgive anyone, if you think carefully about it, you are paying the cost of whatever that person did against you. That is true forgiveness, it’s more than words, it’s action, loving action.
So Christians believe Jesus died on a cross, paid the price for our sins, rose from the dead, rose physically to heaven, and will soon return.
But we also believe that he is present with us, spiritually, through God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit.
We believe that it is God’s Spirit that stirs our hearts and makes us care about our honesty and purity (or lack-of) and failure to live up to Godly standards, even simple things like keeping our word.
These things start to keep us up at night, and we may even long to be free of these painful thoughts and memories.
When this is happening, Christians believe this is God working in our lives, urging us to come clean, spill the beans, admit that we can’t do it alone, that we need His love and forgiveness. That is when we see the true beauty and preciousness of the cross of Jesus. The bible says that he became our sin, that he carried our sorrows, and that his wounds heal us. (And that is just scratching the surface)
How do we then cross that line into God’s family of forgiven and relieved children? People who believe deeply that their sins are forgiven? People who sing for joy the words of amazing grace?
It’s really simple.
Believe, confess, repent.
Believe that Jesus is the King, resurrected and alive in heaven.
Confess that we need him for our forgiveness.
Repent, which basically means change direction, stop following our own ideas and follow Jesus instead. His teaching is clear, in the bible, on how we should live our lives (especially the New Testament).
That’s one of the reasons Christians meet together at church on sundays. To hear more about what Jesus taught us, to sing for joy, and to meet with God. He promises to be with us always but especially when we meet together.
You can follow moral laws for living without Jesus. But if you are strict about it, you will fail (for example Jesus taught that if you even think about committing adultery, it’s basically the same as committing adultery).
So if we need our conscience to be properly clean, no amount of self sacrifice or self torture or self isolation or anything else we try to do will achieve this. Only Jesus, on the cross, dying for our sin, can, and does do this, once and for all.
That’s what Christians believe, and sing about. It is life changing, and we want you to join us and Jesus.
You could just turn up at your closest corner church, and see if God speaks to you there. Hopefully he will. I also recommend reading the Bible, (Christians believe the bible is fully inspired by God, and fully reliable when understood properly- but it can also be misused so care is needed) I especially recommend the New Testament, and maybe start with the Gospel of John. The Old Testament is very relevant but is not as obviously about Jesus, as the New Testament, though Jesus himself tells us that the whole of the Old Testament is about him and is actually fulfilled by him.
And if there is one word worth dwelling on and trying to really understand deeply, that word in my opinion is “grace”.
It’s a Christian word that summarizes the generosity of God’s forgiveness. If you visit a Christian gathering, ( that is what the word "church" means) the people there should take that word pretty seriously to be useful as God’s representatives, in my opinion.
By the way, life as a Christian is not all roses. It includes ongoing struggles, failures, disappointments, grief, temptations, times of self questioning and doubt. But we are never alone, and God has surprising ways of lifting us in times of trouble, and keeping us in his family, it’s part of his commitment to us, Jesus is clear about that. And we re-experience the truth of his forgiveness, time after time. That is my experience. Christians really believe God loves us this much. The bible testifies to this many times.

Lastly I want to mention prayer. Christians pray to God, and usually finish with "in Jesus name", because Jesus tells us to do everything in his name. God hears our prayers, and Jesus hears our prayers, and the Holy Spirit helps us pray as children of God. We believe God answers prayer. The way he answers is as a loving Father caring for the whole of his creation, with a clear plan for every part of it, including you and me, so sometimes the answers are surprising, and sometimes it feels like we hear silence. Most of us have prayed to God at some point in our lives. I believe he hears every prayer. Christians believe he wants us to pray continually, for each other, for ourselves, in thanksgiving, and also in our lowest times. It is hard to be a Christian and not pray.
I hope this little summary is helpful to you and your search for true meaning in this life and the next, so what are you waiting for? Ask God right now to lead you to the person who will help you become a christian.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Righteousness- trying to explain a religious word

"Righteousness" is a religious term.

Ordinary language does not properly convey it's meaning because ordinary language mostly exists outside the realm of religious beliefs. It seems to me that this is becoming more and more the case in western society. My concern is that ordinary people may switch off when terms like this are used.

Most of us relate to nature.

The beauty and grandeur of nature is able to reflect the greatness and majesty of God, to any person, religious or not, but nature does not, in my opinion, give us a “natural” understanding of God’s righteousness, or righteousness in general.

Justice and truth are concepts we grasp more easily than righteousness, even though nature does not necessarily reflect justice or truth. But as members of human society, most people have an understanding of justice and truth, especially when we experience the opposite of these, ie injustice and deception (ouch).

Righteousness could be understood as perfect justice and truth in a person's character, which remains consistent and unchanging. 

Righteousness is not something easily attained. It does not come naturally. In fact, in the strict sense, it is impossible to achieve, due to what Christians refer to as fallen nature, which apart from anything else describes the tendency for every human being to rebel/disobey/take the selfish road/sin.
“Sinless perfection” is a term sometimes mentioned in Christian teaching. Implying a state of being that is morally impeccable.
Righteousness could also be thought of as something like that.

What this is all getting to is that righteousness is a state of being which applies only to God. 

God is righteous. He is completely, perfectly and unchangeably righteous.

Unrighteousness is what actually applies to the rest of us. Although we were created perfect, and I would include righteousness in that description, we rebelled and lost it all. Like a chipped or broken plate, it can never be perfect again.

But God is able to make us righteous!

 He does this only through sacrifice, atonement and propitiation (more religious words, but important ones, see later).

He exchanges (swaps) his righteousness for our unrighteousness on the cross of Golgotha, 2000 years ago, in the person of Jesus. 

It is a gift, totally unattainable, but freely given! (This is a gigantic assertion, and is otherwise known as “the gospel”)

As Christians, we have some understanding of righteousness, but we may mistake our religious way of life as somehow solidifying the righteousness that we have been given in Christ.
We may give the impression that living our lives as Christians achieves a form of righteousness that God is pleased with.
The Pharisees had this impression.
It is incorrect.

As Christians, we are righteous, and remain so, but all of this is a gift that we cannot do without.
The lives we live are a witness of what God has given us, but do not achieve an ounce of righteousness. Even the courageous sharing of our faith, which can help others come to faith, is wonderful but certainly does not achieve righteousness. Prayer, fasting, attending church, bible study, theological dedication etc, do not achieve righteousness.
Jesus alone, as a human, in all of history, was the only person able to live a life of sinless perfection (Christians believe this strongly). He was, and is (he rose from the dead and remains active and alive right now) righteous, in himself, but never independent from the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Our righteousness is a gift we must have in order to be in continual loving fellowship with God. God the Father gives this gift by sending his Son, Jesus, the perfect sacrifice, atonement and propitiation (words that mean that our sin and rebellion is completely extinguished), so that we who are unrighteous can be made righteous. What an amazing gift.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Sermon on the transfiguration.


Matthew 17:1-13 (NIV) After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.


I have spoken on this passage before.

Which means, I was not as keen to speak on it again. But with prayer I felt like, though it might be more difficult to speak on this again, I would do my best.


Some of the things I will say are things I have said before. Please forgive me for this.


The setting of this event after chapter 16 which includes the comment on the yeast of the Pharisees (meaning the teaching). As well as Peter declaring that Jesus is truly the Messiah, as well as Jesus rebutting Peter for rebuking him.


It is a tricky road sometimes dealing with those we love. How much do we allow a grandchild to keep hitting us in innocent play which becomes too painful as the blows get harder, at some point the grandchild must be taught not to do that.


Jesus reveals the true pain of the future during which he will be killed as a criminal, but then rise again. Peter cannot accept that future and tries to rebuke Jesus.


Jesus returns with the difficult but true words, get behind me Satan.


And the reality is that Satan does present opposition especially when we are on the right track. In this case he approaches Jesus through his loved disciple Peter, who he convinces to fear the necessary suffering death and resurrection of his Lord.


And may I briefly speak on the yeast of the Pharisees.


As far as my mind allows, that is the only place that the teaching of the Pharisees is directly addressed as a general thing. Yes, Jesus corrects various points in their teaching pointing out their hypocrisy, but here he is talking about their teaching in general, and like yeast, this teaching will affect individuals and then whole congregations.


How do we recognize this yeast today?


My quick answer is that anything that highlights the human role in our salvation and benefit to humanity and passes over the great grace of forgiveness, is yeast to be wary of.


Even recently I listened to and was moved by a sermon on following God, but a small point of not expecting God to answer us if we have bad areas in our lives, in the end triggered pride and then stress. And in the end unsettled me rather than helped me in my walk.


Let’s be careful; of this yeast. Both as teachers and as listeners.


So, we get to chapter 17 and here, 6 days later, I’m not sure what the significance of that time lapse is, but Jesus takes only 3 of his disciples up a mountain.

Why only 3?

Why not all?


Remember there had been arguments among them as to who was the greatest.


Would this add fuel to that argument?


Or were these the 3 that most needed to experience this event?


Right now, in Asbury University, in Kentucky, a chapel service has become a nonstop worship prayer and gathering event, some might call a revival, with many young people experiencing the presence of God. God has decided to bless this group of people in this way. He knows who needs what, and when.


It seems genuine to me.


Jesus knows what he is up to, and that is one thing I am coming to more quickly as I get older. I don’t need to know the “why” of Jesus actions; he knows best. He really is in tune with his Father, and is prayerfully fully-filled of the Holy Spirit, and really is spot-on in his day-to-day and moment-to-moment decisions. He is not hesitating, or second-guessing. And like us ( as people of faith, the gift ), he is joyfully and confidently walking in faith and trust, and purpose.


He knows what is ahead (the cross), and does not become sullen as a result, instead he celebrates every event.


So with Peter, James and John he climbs the mountain.


And once there, at the top, and if we look at the Luke account, after some prayer time, Jesus is suddenly transfigured.


Changed, shape-shifted, the description is "dazzling white clothes and shining face".

This is, in my opinion, a more dazzling transformation than when he was resurrected. There is no similar description of the resurrected Jesus. To Mary, he looked like the gardener.


And as soon as he is transformed, there appear two giants of faith, long passed, but now alive and speaking with Jesus. Moses, and Elijah. How these two men, long passed are able to now be present, only God knows, but here they are.


Moses was the one to whom God gave the ten commandments to, and Elijah was the great prophet who brought back to life the widow's son, and also destroyed the prophets of baal on mount Carmel.


1 Kings 17:21-24 (ESV) Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this child's life come into him again.” 22 And the LORD listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” 24 And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.”


1 Kings 18:20-21 (ESV) So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”



These 2 great prophets are here speaking with Jesus, and as I said once before, Peter, James and John might have been awestruck being in the presence of Moses and Elijah, but Moses and Elijah would have been awestruck being in the presence of Jesus.

Who would we consider the greater?

 The Sunday school answer is of course Jesus. Which is correct (it is right to name him in every situation). But let me refer to Hebrews and to James


Hebrews 3:1-6 (NIV) 1 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. 2 He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. 3 Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4 For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5 “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. 6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.


James 5:17 (ISV) Elijah was a person just like us, and he prayed earnestly for it not to rain, and rain never came to the land for three years and six months.






Clearly the bible tells us that Jesus is greater than Moses. And Jesus states it himself


Matthew 12:6 (ESV) I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.

Matt 12:42(ESV) e ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.


Greater than Jacob etc.


Greater than Abraham.



So, Moses and Elijah are blessed to be in the presence of Jesus, and I want to say to you brothers and sisters, one day soon, you and I too will be blessed to be in the presence of Jesus.


So as Moses and Elijah speak with Jesus, and from Luke’s account they are discussing his departure, Peter finds a point where he feels able to maybe interrupt and suggest to Jesus that it is a great idea that he had taken himself and the other 2 disciples up with him, because now they can build a tent for Moses, and for Elijah, and for Jesus.


Well, he must have been there for some reason.

Maybe Peter is trying to interpret what Jesus had said to Peter about being the rock on which he would build his church???


Though I want to point out that the rock was Peter’s faith and the church is not a building.


Actually, Jesus is the rock.


So, after Peter imposes his suggestion of his purpose in this whole strange event, a bright cloud envelops them all and a voice, which is clearly the voice of God the Father speaks.

(Peter later refers to this event in his second letter which we read earlier.)


In these words, God is apparently very brief and to the point.


Is this how God always speaks?


If we are ever fortunate enough to hear a direct and personal word from God, I think it will be brief.


But also unforgettable.


When we hear God’s voice, what he tells us is unforgettable.


And here is what he says. He says three things


1.     This is my Son, whom I love

2.     I am very pleased with him

3.     Listen to him.


Of course, he is talking about Jesus


What can we gather form these 3 words


To be the Son of God means to be of the same nature as God the Father, and we have here a revelation of the trinity. The trinity being the word we use to encapsulate the three-personhood one-God understanding of our Christian God; Father, Son and Spirit.

Jesus is fully man, yet he is also fully God and here, God the Father states that Jesus is his son, is the Son. That makes him God. I don’t think this was understood at that point by the three disciples, but I still wish to mention this point. Still on that point, what we believe as Christians,  is that, unlike us, Jesus is not a creation of God. We are all created beings descendants of Adam, Jesus is not dependant on Adams heritage, though in choosing to become man he is truly human. Which is what the word incarnate indicates.


He became incarnate, a man, at one point in history, but was always the son of God.


In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God.


Not only is Jesus God’s son, but God the Father, loves him.


Love is such a widely used term, with wide meanings depending on it’s context.


We’ve all experienced love and we all express love in one form or other.


But God’s love is not necessarily the same as our love.

I want to make 2 points here.

Firstly that the love of God is fully other person centered. Which is to say it is not selfish love, or not manipulative love. But it is transforming. 1 Corinthians 13 describes God’s love.

I have been taught the Greek word "Agape", which is one of the more important words used in the new testament for love. When 1 John says that God is love, the word is “agape”.

The other Greek word is eros. And that word implies contractual love. In other words, I will love you as long as you do such and such. (And there is also the word philios, which is brotherly love, or family love.)


There is a big difference between a contract and a covenant. That is a whole sermon, but I want to highlight the fact that marriage, in the Christian sense, is not a contract, but a covenant.


Human love is most often the contractual type, wanting something in return, or trying to manipulate a situation or a relationship.


As a church we must do our best to guard against this and recognize it when it rises up.


Cults are full of manipulative love. Churches should be presenting agape love, which means we do what we do out of love and gratitude towards God and accept the outcome, accept it when people choose to come or go, and celebrate each situation, knowing God has his hand in every situation. That is not to say we don’t stand up for righteousness or godliness, and certainly we teach the truth.


2. I am very pleased with him.


God derives pleasure from his son. Everything about Jesus is in harmony with the Joy, pleasure, purpose and perfect plan of God our Father.


Do we derive pleasure from our children and grandchildren?


What gives us the most pleasure from our children?


When they show their love to us?


When they obey us?

 When they walk in faith?


When they endure through difficult times?


When they achieve important goals?


For some parents, watching their children do bad things actually pleases them.


Not for Christians.


But in Gods case, everything that Jesus does, pleases God the father.




Which means if we truly wish to follow God, we must follow Jesus.


If we want to know what pleases God, we look to Jesus.


But we cannot do other than trust Jesus to lead and guide us.


We cannot repeat Jesus action, it is once and for all.


True repentance, in my opinion, is following Jesus


3. Listen to him.


How do we listen to Jesus?


The bible,

What we hear at Church

What our parents tell us, what our children tell us. What godly people tell us


In our prayer time,


In the quiet urges of the Holy Spirit


In the loud urges of the Holy Spirit


Not in our bodily urges. 

Though sometimes even our bodies try to point us in the right direction (don’t kick against the spines) (NIV) It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’


So, God our Father tells the three disciples and Moses and Elijah, (if they are still there) to listen to Jesus.


Doesn’t matter what the Pharisees say, or what Moses says, or what Buddha, or Mohamed or Confucious, or Elon Musk, or Stephen Hawkins or Joe Romeo or anyone else says, it is what Jesus says that counts. It is Jesus who we listen to.


And when you hear his voice, listen.


At that point, when the 3 disciples heard the voice of God they fell face down on their knees, terrified.


Why were they terrified?


They had just seen Jesus transfigured, Moses, Elijah alive and speaking with Jesus, and they were not terrified, but the bright cloud of Glory and the voice of God was terrifying.


I think they understood the seriousness of seeing and hearing God. And knew that their lives were in danger.


The Bible states that you cannot see the face of God and live;


But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (exodus 33)


So, they were terrified.


But suddenly the cloud lifted and there was only Jesus, the disciples are still crouched over and cowering I believe, but Jesus came and touched them.


The touch of Jesus strengthens us, saves us, heals us, and transforms us.


Jesus, at this point  could have been basking in the experience, but no, he was interested in, and concerned for his three ordinary followers, Peter, John and James.

This shows the heart of Jesus, our Lord.


In Isaiah and in Hebrews we read about Jesus before his father.

What does he say?


Here am I and the children you have given me.


Isaiah 8:18 (NIV) Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.


Hebrews 2:13 (NIV) And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”

And again he says,

“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”


And what of the post resurrection Jesus in the Gospel of John.


John 20:17-18 (NIV) Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.


So Jesus is all for obeying his Father and completing the work that his father gave him, but completely consistent with this is his complete heart for his disciples, his followers, his weak and stumbling disciples. Jesus is all for us.


For God so Loved (Agape) the world (us) that he gave his one and only begotten son (Jesus) so that whoever believes in him (us) should not perish but have everlasting life.
















Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Sermon from Matthew Chapter 4, in particular, on repentance.

Matthew 4:12-25 (NIV) 12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:

15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,

the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,

Galilee of the Gentiles—

16 the people living in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of the shadow of death

a light has dawned.”

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Jesus Heals the Sick

23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.



This morning’s reading is from the gospel of Matthew chapter 4. It describes the start of Jesus ministry, after his baptism by John, when the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove, and heaven opened up and God, the Father spoke, “This is my son with whom I am well pleased.”

Jesus was then led into the wilderness for 40 days, where he fasted and was tempted by the devil. He resisted the temptations, and on returning, it says that having heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee.


So, it wasn’t very long after John baptised Jesus, that he was put in prison by Herod.


If baptising Jesus was the peak of John’s career, he was not able to “enjoy” that event for very long.


Now, in chapter 2 of Matthew it says that when Joseph returned from Egypt (with Mary and the child Jesus, after the first Herod who killed all the young boys in Bethlehem had died) but he heard that Archaleus, the son of the previous Herod was reigning in Jerusalem, and as well as being warned in a dream (Joseph had a number of important dreams), he withdrew to Galilee, living in a town called “Nazareth”.


So, Joseph had some fear of Herod’s son, as well as God’s warning to cause him to head for Nazareth, where Jesus grew up.


In chapter 4, Jesus also avoids Jerusalem, in the wake of John’s arrest and also heads for Galilee.


Was Jesus, like Joseph, afraid?


I don’t think so. He had just spent 40 days in the desert starving and being tempted by the devil himself, later he walked straight up to the powerful demoniac who broke chains.

But Jesus was practical, and had a mission to accomplish, so he headed for Galilee, but this time he didn’t stay in Nazareth, he probably passed through Nazareth, and went on another 50km or so, and lived in Capernaum.


And, apart from anything else, he was fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, which stated that the land of Zebulun and Naphthali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the gentiles,

The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.


So this is what Isaiah said many years before (? 600 years before).


And here is the young, vibrant, motivated Jesus fulfilling this prophecy with all his might.


What is “Zebulun and Naphthali”?


Areas of the promised land.


But also, the names of 2 sons of Jacob, (who was also known as Israel, after he wrestled with God).


Remember there were 12 sons


In Genesis, Many, many years before Jesus’ incarnation, we read that Jacob moved from the promised land to Egypt because of the great famine, which Pharaoh had dreamt about and Joseph interpreted. Which led to Joseph being in command. But 400 years after Joseph, Moses, a descendant of Levi, one of Joseph’s brothers, rescued the Israelite nation from Egypt (who had made them slaves) and took them back to the promised land, and the land was divided amongst the 12 tribes, each region named after the sons of Israel, except that the Levites, who were appointed as priests and were not given land, instead they were provided for through the sacrificial system. But Joseph was given 2 allocations after his 2 sons Manasseh and Ephraim. So, there were still 12 areas. (see slide)


Naphthali and Zebulun were 2 of them by the sea of galilee.


And Jesus then lived, temporarily, in Capernaum.


If you look at Capernaum now, there isn’t much to see. (see slides)


But Jesus didn’t need much, did he?


He didn’t need a big shopping centre, or a car or a boat.


And even today there isn’t much to see, a few churches that mark certain sites, like where Peter lived, the place where Jesus gave the “sermon on the mount”, and the place where he fed the 5000.


So, it is ‘touristy”, but even though it’s touristy, it’s not a metropolis today, it still looks pretty sparse.


So, what did Jesus do there at Capernaum and Galilee?


He preached.


Both open air and in the synagogues.


(They have found ruins of synagogues, which is important historically.)


In chapter 5 to 7 of Matthew we have a pretty long sermon with lots of teaching that Jesus gave, probably not all at once. But it starts with the famous “beatitudes”.

They are the blessing announcements, starting with “blessed are the poor in spirit, because the kingdom of heaven is for them”


But in this passage in chapter 4 the stated preaching of Jesus is; “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Which is very much like what John was preaching.


So, I would like to look at what that means.


The Kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God, is not a geographical area, though kingdoms are often defined geographically.


It is the place where God’s rule and authority are in place.


Now of course God is in authority in all the earth and in fact, in all of the universe, because he created everything, (and by the way, we heard from Hebrews and Colossians and other passages that Jesus himself, before he became man, was the creator, or co-creator with the Holy Spirit and God the Father.)


But the implication here is that, at this point, in this place, God’s rule was not being respected, or considered.


It’s a bit like the story we heard about the car being pulled up by police on the central coast somewhere and the occupants telling the police that they had no jurisdiction there. Meaning that they considered their car, a part of a different country that they ruled.

There are a few crazies out there with this type of attitude.

 Well that didn’t work, did it? Apparently, the police officer pulled out the window and probably arrested the occupants of the car because they did have jurisdiction there. God has jurisdiction everywhere doesn’t he?


What about in the pubs?


What about in a brothel?


Or a drug house?


Or a Hindu temple? In a remote part of India?


But this is the promised land, and both Isaiah and Matthew describe the land as living in the shadow of death, in darkness.


The implication is that they are actually far from God, whether by choice or other.


And I suggest that there was some choice in it.


What about Narrandera?


Are we in darkness?


Does the rule of God apply in Narrandera? In NSW? In Australia?


Do we follow Gods rules?


What about euthanasia, what about marriage? And I’m not even talking about gay marriage.

What about the name of Jesus?


Do we respect that name?


And do we respect the bible, God’s word?


I wonder what it was like in Galilee at the time of Jesus?


Jesus message was that they should repent.


What does it mean to repent?


The first answer is; “turn around.”


We have just had a new year, and many people do still make resolutions.

Is that repentance?


Sometimes repentance is simply stopping.


It can be really hard to stop. If I’m in an argument with my wife, it is hard for me to stop.


But that is what I should do.


But is repenting more than simply turning around, turning over a new leaf? Stopping the bad thing you are doing, maybe being sorry for doing it, and I’ve said in the past, being prepared to face the consequences of your actions, maybe even handing yourself in for a crime you have committed and gotten away with in the past, or confessing your guilt and apologising.

Yes, all of these things are repentance. But I think there is still more to true repentance. This came to me as I was preparing this, and I’ve never said this before, but I think true repentance is actually following Jesus.


You can decide to be good. You can decide to stop smoking or stop drinking or stop arguing or stealing or hurting others or scheming for whatever, and taking advantage of others etc, but the difference really happens when you decide to follow Jesus. I think that is what brings about proper repentance.


You see when you decide to follow Jesus you are saying that:

Jesus knows best,

what he says must be right,

how he tells us to behave and the way he tells us to live our lives is the right way to do things.


That is repentance,

 I think.


So, when we repent we become Christians, and when we become Christians we repent,

And following Jesus sorts out our character and our plans etc. In other words, as we mature as Christians we repent again and again, putting away old habits, and realising new habits also need to be put away.


What I haven’t said yet is that repentance is a gift that the Holy Spirit gives.


When the Holy Spirit is present he convicts us of sin and righteousness and judgement but he doesn’t leave us quivering in fear, he opens our eyes to the truth of who Jesus is and what he has done for us, and then we simply fall into place in our following of our wonderful saviour.


Remember the woman caught in adultery, in the end it was just her and Jesus, and he asked her, does no-one condemn you?


She answered no, and Jesus answered, nor do I condemn you, now go in peace and sin no more.


The Holy Spirit is God, and he also convicts us, but he does not condemn us, instead he shows us the forgiveness that Jesus has bought at great price for us, and we are then motivated to repent and sin no more.


So, in my theory, if you repent, you become a Christian, and you come to church.


If you repent, you love the bible


If you repent you love other Christians


If you repent, you love.


It’s not actually a burden, not a heavy one anyway, Jesus tells us his burden is light.


We may lose face, but that’s probably the best thing that could happen to us.


So, getting back to the passage, Jesus starts by preaching repentance, because God’s rule is coming back into importance, his kingdom is near, he is reasserting his control of our lives in this region.


And as he walked along the shore he saw Peter and his brother Andrew and he said come follow me. And they repented and followed him.


Now it doesn’t say here that they repented but if you read Luke 5 we find the story of how they had been fishing all night and then probably listening as Jesus preached from the boat, and then reluctantly they agreed to throw out their nets once more.


It wouldn’t surprise me if up to that point Peter had been angry about the lack of fish, and maybe about this religious bloke using their boat to preach religion, and that while Jesus preached about the goodness of God, he had been thinking that if God is so good, why won’t he make my life easier and give me some fish for a change? (Now I’ve just made all that up, but you can see what I’m getting at.) So, Jesus (who seemed to know what people were thinking) after he had finished preaching, told them to push out a little and throw out the nets once more, which they reluctantly did. But suddenly there were so many fish the boat was going to sink and they needed more boats and more fishermen.


Peter should have been excited, he’d never had such an experience, but instead he felt convicted in his heart of his sinfulness, which I do know because it says in Luke that he told Jesus to go away from him because he (Peter) is a sinful man.

That is repentance, confessing the truth of what we are truly like,

and then Jesus said come follow me, he didn’t tell Peter off, he didn’t care about his sinfulness, and Peter did follow, that is true repentance. He left everything to follow Jesus


Now leaving everything does not mean we sell our houses and leave our jobs, although it does mean that for some of us, but It does mean that everything in our lives comes second to Jesus.


Everything in our lives comes second to Jesus.


That is repentance.


I think.






It is, when the weight of our sin drives us to the only one who can carry the weight of our sin.


Acts 4:12 (NIV) Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”


Now in Matthew there are less details, certainly less painful details. Matthew simply states that as Jesus walked along the shore, he saw 2 brothers Simon (Peter) and Andrew, casting nets into the lake, because they were fishermen, and he told them follow me and I will make you fishers of men, and eventually(?) they followed.


No, it says “at once”.


Once you can see who Jesus is, there is no hesitation.


So, Jesus is in the business of “catching men.” (He tells the disciples that he will make them fishers of men.)


That’s what Jesus does, and that is what he is still doing.


By “catching” we don’t mean enticing us into some strange cult that turns us into “weirdos”.


No, it means we become people who love God and are willing to serve others out of love, and willing to suffer out of our love for Jesus. We love, because he first loved us.


He also called 2 others, James and John, and they also repented.


And then Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in the synagogues, preaching good news (that’s the net) of the kingdom. And healing every disease and sickness among the people. And Jesus became famous in that area.


The people in darkness have seen a great light, and that light is the life of men.  Without Jesus, we have no light and no life, and no way, and no truth. No way or light or life to anywhere and certainly not to God but with Jesus we do have light and life and the way to God.


So, let’s all of us repent and follow Jesus.


For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life!



Ephesians 2:12-14 (NIV) remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace


Luke 24:32 (NIV) They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”