Monday, December 26, 2016

This Is The Moment

There's no midwife in this stable helping Mary through her labour,
Just a man who prays by her side.
No fresh linen, no hot water, just the comfort of each other,
Trusting in the kindness of God.
What a joy, when suddenly the baby appears,
What a joy, the sound of crying filling their ears.

This is the time, this is the moment a child is born,
Who could have known this is the way the true King would come;
A feedbox for a bed, with straw beneath his head,
And a star in the sky telling all who go by, “This is the moment”.

Guided by the voice of angels, shepherds find this chosen stable.
Filled with awe, they see what God's done.
Could this be our precious Saviour sleeping sweetly in the manger?
Heaven knows he's truly the one.
What a day, when grace and mercy meet in a stall,
What a day, the day that God has come to us all.

This is the time, this is the moment a child is born,
Who could have known this is the way the true King would come;
A feedbox for a bed, with straw beneath his head,
And a star in the sky telling all who go by...
This is the time, this is the moment a child is born,
Who could have known this is the way the true King would come;
A feedbox for a bed, with straw beneath his head,
And a star in the sky telling all who go by, “This is the moment”.
  
This Is The Moment ©Joe Romeo 19th Nov 2010
Artist:  Joanne Subramaniam
Writer:  Joe Romeo
Piano:  Roger Nicholson
Produced by Adrian Hannan

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Our Loved Ones in Heaven


I think most off us hope to see our loved ones, who have died, once more, after we have died, sometime in the future.
Whether we go to church or not, whether we outwardly admit to faith or not, if for no other reason, because of our Christian culture, many of us have this quiet hope within us.

But when we come to faith, sometimes our hope wavers, having a more developed understanding of hell, separation, and the work of Jesus.

I certainly believe there is no other way to go to heaven than “The Way”, meaning “Jesus”. I say this knowing that many put their faith in Allah, Mohamed, Buddha, Jehovah, and others I can’t think to name.
My understanding is that there is only one name under heaven, one Lord on whom we call, one King of Kings and Lord of Lords, only one Lamb that was found worthy to open the scroll.
Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”

The early Christians spoke of their faith as following “The Way”.

Without the work of Jesus on the cross and the power of his resurrection, no one is able to stand before God and be accepted into his Holy presence, forever.

Yet we as Christians believe that we are saved. Meaning we have been “processed” into new beings. Re-created. Born again. Circumcised in the heart. And this process makes us members of the family of God both now, and after we die, forever, meaning eternity, heaven, etc.

Various denominations have varying understandings of the steps we have to go through to achieve this outcome. For many, as long as you participate in the “sacraments”, whether you understand them or not, you are safe and sound. For others, it requires a personal act of confession and prayer, in which the seeker speaks out their submission and allegiance to Christ Jesus, and then continues in the fellowship of that congregation.
Still others require strict adhesion to baptism as full immersion in water, with others requiring speaking in tongues as evidence.

Whatever process is required, what of our loved ones who have not been “processed” in that way?

Some would say there is no doubt that they are lost, hence it would be naïve to think that we would meet again in heaven.

More liberal denominations have the sense that everyone is saved, whether or not they showed evidence of faith, went to church etc.

My personal view is that there is only one way to heaven, as I stated above. So best to put our faith and trust in Jesus and call on his name for forgiveness and salvation and hold onto him for all our lives (it all comes in one package). It also means we publicly identify ourselves as followers of Jesus, and accept the positives and negatives of this.

 I believe all is a gift. (Faith repentance, baptism, understanding, fellowship etc, it all comes from God, he is the initiator and giver, we simply receive with joy)

But I also believe in an amazing God with great mercy, who is able to do things outside of our knowledge, and despite our rebellion.

The thief on the cross was saved in his final hours, after a life of possibly no faith or church. Somehow, his condemnation on a cross became his salvation, when he happened to be crucified next to our Saviour. Who would have thought that his death sentence was his biggest blessing?

So it is possible that God arranges a point in a person’s life to come to faith, sometime before they die, that doesn't involve a church service, and we don’t necessarily know about it. Therefore, we ought not to be dogmatic about who actually makes it to heaven and those who don’t. All we can be dogmatic about is that Jesus is the only one who saves us, and John the Baptist identified him as the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the “WORLD”. That implies there is potential for all to be saved.

I do believe there is a hell, and that those who are not “in” Jesus, will not go to heaven, and will suffer eternal torment, the second death.

But the point of interest I want to get around to is the reunion with loved ones.

There is at least some degree of romanticism in the modern Christian culture, of a wonderful reunion with loved ones as we reach the “other shore”.

Meaning those who have reached heaven before us, meet us as we arrive.

This is modern imagery. Not portrayed in the Bible.

I do hope to see many who have gone before, including my father. Including the apostles. But what the Bible speaks of is being with Jesus and the Father, and the Holy Spirit. It also speaks of a great multitude, more than anyone can count. It states that God himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

So there are many people, which hopefully includes our loved ones. But the highlight of being in heaven will actually be, being with God.

I’ve been thinking about the others including our loved ones.

What follows is just reflection, nothing biblical.

I think we will realize and identify our loved ones in heaven. But they will look different, as will we. (we will all be "like" Jesus)

They will be in awe of God, as will we.

We will be so caught up in our awe of God, that our connection with each other will be a much smaller thing.
If we have a parent and a child in heaven, who will we be drawn to more?

Neither. We will be drawn to the Lamb.

Does that mean we won’t experience relationships?

Not at all. But all these relationships will be transformed in the light of the Lamb. We will all be brothers and sisters with one Father.

And the best foretaste of this happens in our plain old gathering together as Christians each week.

We will all be together in joy, enjoying each other, but especially enjoying being with our God.

So our consolation, will not come from the embrace of our long lost child, or brother, or best friend or parent or grandparent, or Paul, or Peter, or Elvis.
No our consolation will come from our true Father, who himself will wipe away our tears and fill us with great joy.
That deep warm wonderful sense of belonging and acceptance that we get when we reunite with a loved one, after a period of separation, is what we will experience a hundred fold from God himself. He will be our resolution and consolation, the fulfiller of every emotional emptiness, loss and hurt, in a true, physical and permanent way. But the amazing thing is that he already is that to us now. And we can experience this in faith even right at this moment.

Now to him who is able to keep us from falling and present us without fault and with great joy before his glorious presence, to the only God our saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forever more. Amen.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Unforgiven


There was a time in my life when I was desperate.

I was anxious and disheartened, and wherever I looked, including the Bible, all I saw was condemnation.

“What can I do to be saved?”

This was a deep and unending question for me. For a while I was relatively satisfied with the understanding of “surrendering my life to Jesus”.
It’s what Christians around me seemed to agree was the way to be saved, along with regular reading of God’s word and prayer.
But after meeting a certain denomination representative, I felt on the outside again.
They seemed to do more than me, more witnessing, more bible study, more devotion of their life, and besides, it didn’t actually say anywhere in the bible that surrendering your life to Jesus was the way of being saved. There must be something else we have to do?

“Baptism”.

Full immersion baptism was the only way, according to that person, and he backed it up with Bible verses.  But I had been christened as a baby, and all the people that I spent time with as Christians, didn’t feel that was necessary, but I still felt unholy, unclean, unforgiven.
I didn’t want to go to that church (I still would not go near it), I didn’t like what this fellow was doing to me and he would NOT go away, or back down on his stance.

I was feeling desperate, and was looking over my shoulder wherever I went, and also dreading the sound of the phone ringing, in case it was him.

I was backed into a corner. How could I call myself a Christian, when I felt no reliable connection to God? I wanted something firm and secure that I could take out of my wallet and say, here is my license to prove I am a Christian, but I had nothing. (Some people use "tongues" as "proof")

It was in that setting that one day I heard, loudly and clearly, that in fact there is nothing we can do to satisfy God, and his holiness. Nothing. We are, in fact, hopelessly lost as far as our own ability to gain God’s favour. Not the most honest baptism in the purest water can wash away even the smallest drip of our guilty stains. We are lost.

But God did something.
He sent his Son.
He provided a lamb.
A spotless lamb.
This lamb takes away the sins of the world...
And ANYONE who trusts in him is given the gift of forgiveness, repentance, cleansing, a clear conscience, adoption as children into the family of God, eternal life.
Yes, a washing takes place, a purification, a baptism. It all happens on the cross.
And we who believe in the cross are immersed in the power of it, even if we don't understand it, or even "feel" it (feeling guilty does not prove guilt, not feeling guilty does not prove innocence)

The gift we receive is faith.
Faith gives us the heart to see that Jesus has done it all. We do nothing except receive what we can’t live without. The precious blood of Jesus washes the guilty sinner and they are white as snow. 

What a Saviour!!!!!!

The devil goes to church...

Ever wondered why arguments, disagreements, conflict, irritations, anger, hatred, and so many other things just seem to spring up out of nowhere at church, sometimes straight after the best services?


Ever wondered why the sound system plays up at crucial moments?



Ever wondered why people get snoozy during important parts of the sermon, why your children misbehave at what seem to be Important points, and why people interrupt with the most apparently trivial things at the worst possible times?



Why do people overhear the things we shouldn’t be saying about them, at the worst possible times?



And why do certain topics come up during announcements or during the service, that seem to grate on our raw nerves?



Why do we suddenly feel like we don’t want to maintain our involvement at fellowship?



Why do people ask the most sensitive questions at the wrong time?



Why do you tell a white lie just before you’re about to give a sermon on being faithful in the small things?



The actual reason all these things happen is because we are sinners. 

Yes, we are rebellious, yes we are proud, arrogant, lazy, dumb, vicious, backbiting, inconsistent, prayerless, careless, judgemental, biased, and too interested in our own benefit, and in money.



And the devil knows it, and his timing is pretty much perfect.



God have mercy on us sinners.



1John 3:8 The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.











Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The 4th temptation in Luke 4


"All spoke well of him". (Luke 4:22)
This passage is confronting to me.
Jesus had just been baptized and was full of the Holy Spirit. This description alone could cause endless debate but all I wish to point out is that, all that follows relates to a man powerfully working in the fullness of God's will.
So he is led by the Spirit into the desert where for forty days he is tempted by the devil and eats nothing.
It is interesting that Satan uses this time of solitude and separation to tempt Jesus. We often seek solitude for recharging, as did Jesus, but solitude by no means keeps us safe from temptation, computer screen or not.
And the temptations are very interesting. They vary from food to fame to amazing feats. But where Adam and Eve failed quickly without famine or need, Jesus in a physically weakened state, strongly and obediently resists.
The Spirit led him into the desert, but the devil led him to high places. It is not stated, but it seems Jesus had no choice but to follow the devil to these places and endure the temptation.
Each temptation was rebuffed with a clear knowledge, understanding and application of God's word. "It is written..."
But the devil also quotes scripture as part of the temptation, so clearly Gods word can be used with evil intent. Knowing God's word alone is not necessarily proof of holiness or of orthodoxy.
Vs 13 says that when the devil finished all his tempting he left him for a more "opportune time".
When is this time? In the Garden of Gethsemane? On the cross?
In my opinion it happens in the same chapter.
Jesus went back home to Nazareth, still full in the power of the Spirit. Everyone is now talking about this local boy who has amazing gifts.
He reads from Isaiah and proclaims that he is the fulfillment of the very words he reads. What an amazing and sublime moment that must have been. 
And "all spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips".

If I put myself in Jesus sandals at that exact point in time, I don't think I would have taken Jesus' next step.
Surely it would be good to enjoy the moment of popularity and positivity after your first sermon at your home church. Surely we would use the positive vibe to build on our momentum in our career as a stadium speaker? Surely this positive vibe is a blessing from God?
Jesus must be mad or stupid (from the point of view of our modern, commercial, money orientated world) because the next step he takes is to completely and irreversibly undermine his current preaching success. He destroys it in such a way that the event would go viral today if it had been captured to YouTube.
In his home synagogue, just after receiving a standing ovation, and without any provocation, he adds to his sermon the worst possible ending. If anything he incites the congregation.
It seems, though it isn't directly stated, that the people were now waiting for some miraculous sign, some special event for Jesus to perform, as he had done elsewhere. After all, this was his home town, and he had just read about giving sight to the blind and releasing prisoners etc. form the scroll of Isaiah.
Instead Jesus refuses, and reminds them about the fact that a prophet is never accepted in his home town. He then reminds everyone that God ignored the many, many widows in Jerusalem during a great famine, and instead sent Elijah to a widow in Zarephath. He doubles the pain of his point by adding the fact that God ignored many others with leprosy choosing instead to heal the Syrian general Naaman.
In other words, Jesus was saying, "you can talk me up as much as you like, but I'm not going to do any miracles here."
And just because he wasn't going to do miracles there, did not invalidate his fulfillment of Isaiah's passage.

The people were furious, not in the sense that they weren't going to invite him back to speak again. They wanted to kill him.
This seems like an over reaction to a bad sermon.
I would suggest that maybe this crowd became possessed by the devil (which by no means clears them of personal guilt for what they were about to do).
Where Hitler took advantage of crowd dynamics and stirred them to his advantage, Jesus rejected his popularity, recognized it as from the devil and unmasked their hearts and their desire to kill him with his deeply cutting comments.
He was taken to his third high place in that chapter, with the intention of being thrown off to his death.
He could have once again "tested" God to see if the Angels would buffer his fall, but instead, in the power and humility of the Spirit, he walked through the crowd and escaped.
Being spoken well of, in this circumstance, was, in my opinion, Satan taking his opportunity to thwart Jesus' mission. Satan failed. Jesus succeeded.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Before the Throne of God Above

"Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me."

This is a beautiful verse of a beautiful hymn.

I was listening to a modern version of this song originally written by Charitie Lees Bancroft.

As Christians, we are drawn to the wonderful forgiveness that Jesus bought for us by his own blood.

The thought that came to me as I was listening to these words is that I think we sometimes misjudge the Father. We love Jesus; He is our Lord and Saviour, who substituted himself for us so that we could be washed and sanctified and justified, and have a place in God's family.

We know that Jesus is the Son. We know that God the Father sent Jesus his Son, and we know the Spirit is the third person of the one God we worship. But today I am not addressing the deep truth of the Trinity.

What I want to focus on is the sometimes wrong assumption we have of God the Father and God the Son.

Just as Catholics sometimes look to Mary as the "gentle", "feminine", "approachable" person in heaven, who may have some sway over Jesus, and a deeper connection with humanity, (a view I don't agree with), other Christians sometimes see Jesus as the "gentle", "approachable", "merciful" member of the Trinity, as opposed to the "harsh", "uncompromising", "unapproachable" Father, God-head member of the Trinity.

But I think this is a BIG fallacy.

What if the Father is in fact the most merciful/ forgiving/gracious of all.

If there were (there isn't) a struggle of will between the Father and the Son, one being more on the side of the sinner, the other being more on the side of Justice, I would say that the Father is the one MORE on the side of the SINNER.
I will state it again.
If there is a pole of grace within the Trinity (there isn't), then, the one who most pleads our case is actually the FATHER!

What of that amazing prayer of Jesus "forgive them for they don't know what they are doing", if Jesus struggled with that deeply moving prayer (he didn't), his struggle may have been more to align himself with God's forgiving heart than with protecting his guilty murderers from a righteous judge.

These are hair splitting points I am making, and I'm not using scripture at the moment to support my thoughts, but I do know this: Jesus is not the gentle Son of a severe Father. He is of one mind and heart and will with His Father and with the Holy Spirit, who, in perfect Unity, planned and fulfilled the rescue of sinful man.

Grace is the wonderful work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We need not fear the Father, or, we need no less to fear the Son and Holy Spirit.

God "the Just"was not tricked into forgiving us by some clever move by Jesus.

God 'the merciful" SENT Jesus for this very purpose, and Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, was deeply glad for the opportunity to do his Father's will.

I hope these thoughts stimulate your mind and heart to greater love for our wonderful God.




Sunday, September 4, 2016

?Saint Teresa?

I don't think Mother Teresa would want to be canonized.

Apart from other things, canonizing means the Catholic Church is certain she is in heaven. Which implies (like it or not) that to be fairly confident of your place in heaven you have to be in the mold of someone like Mother Teresa.
If you are "ordinary" then who knows?

This is how the media and the world in general would see it, as well as many ordinary Christians of many denominations.

The New Testament definition of a saint is simply, a believer. There is no separating amazing saints from ordinary ones. In fact Jesus identifies himself particularly with the "least" of his followers.

(St.) Paul described himself as the worst of sinners. And all believers know that they are sinners, especially leaders.

The word "saint" comes from the word sanctify which is from the word "holy".
"Holy" is a word that describes the otherness of God. He is "other" because of his moral impeccability, purity, and absolute perfection in all things, particularly with regard to his plan for creation and how he relates to all things. If there are degrees of holiness then God is actually most Holy.

Ordinary people are made holy. God does this. We don't deserve it, we don't earn it, and we never "achieve" it by living our lives a certain way, yet God "sanctifies" us making us (believers) his very own family. This is amazing and true and worth celebrating.

He does this in only one way. By sending his one and only begotten Son, Jesus, who took us into himself on the cross. By his death (the sacrifice of a perfect, sinless and innocent man, the only one who was worthy of the title "lamb of God") and rising from the dead, he purified us, washed us, remade us, sanctified us, filled us with his "Holy" Spirit and certainly that makes us fit for heaven, miracle or no miracle, life devoted to the poor, or to the rich or to any in between.

So now, as believers, our identity is in Jesus and we follow his teaching to love one another, and serve one another, and to forgive one another. That's what saints do.
What saints don't want or need, is to be elevated to a glory that we know only Jesus deserves.
Saints want to honour Jesus.
The church, which is the great multitude of gathered saints, also wants to honour Jesus.
Canonizing a particular person just does not make sense and is not helpful.
I don't think Mother Teresa would want to be canonized.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

"Prodigal" Wedding

I was invited to a wedding. People I've known for many years though only as passing friends.
With excitement I was told; "It's happening! Come to our wedding."
The emotion was genuine, as was the invitation.

So of course I went.

Weddings speak strongly of God's love for mankind.
Like the morning sunrise over the ocean, the beauty of a lush green forest and the majesty of snow capped mountain ranges, weddings give witness to the love and glory of God, even when they are theologically silent.
Paul tells us that when a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife it is a grand mystery. It is the deep, unexplainable and illogical but wonderful truth of Jesus redeeming mankind in action.The conclusion of all history will be a wedding. No, it will be THE wedding. The wedding that all other countless earthly weddings have been pointing to. That of the bride and the Lamb, the saved and the Saviour, the church and her Lord, us and Jesus.

As Christians we believe that earthly weddings are ordained by God. It is God who joins a man and a woman, and that earthly union is broken only by physical death.

As Christians we honour marriage by strict celibacy outside of marriage. And we honour marriage by monogamy in marriage.

However today in western society, many choose to cohabit. For many and varied reasons. Even professing Christians are found in these unorthodox circumstances.

Some who clearly plan to marry, feel that once they are engaged, then they may as well start living together.

I don't believe this is how Jesus intended marriage.

I think engagement is the serious promise of marriage, which can be broken if necessary without dishonour to either party, when celibacy is respected. Therefore engagement should remain a time of celibacy in honour of God, and families, and each other. It need not be extended. Paul states that it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Personally I don't believe girlfriends or boyfriends are a tenable Christian practice. As a Christian, either we are seeking/open to marriage, or we aren't. Once we are ready to marry, we seek wisdom and direction on courtship and marriage. Courtship is always with a view to marriage. In the meantime, when we are younger, and not mature enough to marry, friendships should be enjoyed, friendships which honour people's independence and availability for courtship as well as their celibacy.


I am well aware that society does not share my personal views. These views come from my faith in Jesus. It's how I believe we can best serve God as single and as married people of faith.




But what of the rest of society? Those that may have some faith, but are not as "religious" as others. Or those who profess no faith, or alternative faiths?

Sometimes a couple who has lived together will decide to marry. They may already share children or have had previous relationships.

Is this marriage to be shunned? Looked down upon? Ridiculed? Avoided? Is it a farce? What's the point????

I joyfully say no to all these questions.

As a Christian I know everything that has come to me is out of Gods grace and mercy.

My childhood, my abilities, my forgiveness, my faith and repentance, my job, my income, my marriage, my celibacy, my children; everything is a gift, nothing is earnt.

(on a seperate note, I have not been "rewarded" with a great marriage because I "suffered" celibacy. Celibacy is a gift that is of great worth, as is marriage.)

Who am I to say that the gift of a blessed marriage is only for committed Christians? What if God is present at every marriage? What if God approves of all marriages, no matter what has gone before?
If it is God who joins a man and a woman, does he do this from a distance? Or does he actually attend the wedding? Jesus certainly attended weddings, and often spoke of them in his teaching.

I guess the point I'm making is that all marriages, even delayed ones, can and should be honoured in a similar way to the returning prodigal son.
The ever loving father waited patiently for the returning son, and reinstated him freely at his own cost and to the dislike of the elder more outwardly compliant son.

Surely we Christians who understand the depth and true significance of marriage would/should celebrate all those who knowingly or unknowingly are witnessing to the coming great wedding when they themselves return/come to God's gift of marriage?



Of course all of these situations are more complicated than how I have described them, but none of us have perfect marriages or perfect celibacy leading into marriage. Yet God chooses us for his perfect Son.





Saturday, April 9, 2016

Standing Out (Colossians 3:1-4)

For some reason, I like to stand out in certain circumstances. I suppose pride is the main reason. But there is also the sense of having a gift or skill or ability and receiving some *recognition for that ability.
Western culture is so immersed in television, that we are naturally drawn  to the glory that is bestowed by the media and the millions of viewers on those special few who have climbed successfully onto that stage.
We admire and identify with those idols of pop culture. 
We long for our own day of glory.

But for the Christian, self promotion and boasting has been forsaken in the light of  the great gifts of forgiveness, transformation, renewal and regeneration that God has poured upon us by the cross of his Son, Jesus.

As Christians we know that our hope lies with Jesus in heaven, we are to set our hearts on things above.

Somehow we have been raised with Jesus. We have died. Our lives are hidden. Hidden with Jesus.

When he appears, we will appear with him in glory.

I don't exactly know how to explain this amazing future event, but I believe it will far out weigh winning Masterchef, Idol, Australia's Got Talent, X-factor, Biggest Looser, the Olympics, the Arias. the Dove awards, the Acadamy awards, and any other major competition put together.

Appearing "in glory" will be worth the wait, and won't go to our heads as is often the risk with worldly success.

God does make some people stand out, but he also makes everything beautiful in its time. When is our time?
Soon
When Christ appears.


*The wanting to receive recognition is also a mixed bag. As we mature, the need for this recognition of our gifts lessens, I think.