Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Our Father

I wonder why, if, and how God would spend time listening to the prayers of people like me.
After all there are countless millions of people in more serious and dire situations. People close to death from disaster and malnutrition. War torn nations with children exposed and lacking the most basic needs. Adults young and old, as well as children being exploited through forced labour and worse. The poor, missing meals and lacking sanitation. And even in my own country, so many in need of basic love and support.

How does Jesus even hear these countless needs, and how does he prioritise them. Surely there are prayers that he can simply ignore and others that he simply must act on.

Surely, in a disaster, his power to heal and save are much more crucial than in my comfortable and privileged situation.

Surely my concerns, involving debates on theology and orthodoxy, as well as more frivolous desires are of minimal interest to the Holy God who can see those who are truly suffering.

Surely my prayers would be more valuable if they were directed outwardly and laterally. Don’t worry about me, I’m fine, help those without enough food, help those who need shelter and safety, help the children who are helpless and in danger. Give wisdom and strength to those in leadership in places that need important decisions to be made, that make a difference to the future of people that are truly disadvantaged... maybe my prayers could be used to add weight to the more important prayers, the prayers of genuine need, the prayers of those in desperate situations.

Or maybe my prayer should be, “tell me how I can help those who need my help the most”, 
Which is also asking God to show us where and what he wants us to do.
Which is another way of saying
“God, if you want to, give me a job, I’m
 ready to serve you.”

But are we really ready to serve God?

Or are we even worthy?

Are we even worthy to approach the unapproachable holy God in prayer?

Why would God be even willing to listen to us when everything we do, continually, is simply self serving, self centred, self glorifying, selfishly greedy, self, self, self,

And once we realise that we are in this terrible self-centred condition, can we actually do anything to, 1. change, and 2. make up for it?

Who is to say that, lets say, 5 years of selfless serving of others in a third world country would have any value in restoring a broken relationship with God.

If for example, we are guilty of stealing from a particular store. In spite of paying back what we owe for our crime, no matter the circumstances or genuineness of our gesture, the store may ban us from ever entering the premises again. And they would be within their rights.

If that is true for our broken society, surely God does not have to forgive our selfishness, even if we are sorry. Even if we try to make up for it. God does not have to be a forgiving God.

Having our own rules about how to be right with God is useless if we have no communication from God himself.

God goes by his own rules. He has the advantage, morally, legally, historically, financially, and in any and every other way.

Propitiation is the action of not only atoning but also “de-offending”.

In the case of theft, propitiation pays fully for the crime as well as reconciling the relationship between the criminal and the victim, so much so that, the original relationship is not only restored but strengthened.

Propitiation has the power to transform and rehabilitate the criminal so that he/or she can take up a trusted role in the society or family where they belong.

Propitiation costs dearly, preciously. It involves  blood, and not just any blood. The suffering death and resurrection of the holy, spotless, pure lamb of God. God himself, out of his own good and perfect will, provides the Lamb, his Son. His only begotten and beloved Son.

Unless we are propitiated, we have no place in God’s agenda, his plan for humanity, his action in the world, his goal for all history, his kingdom.

But if we are propitiated, then we can pray.

“Your kingdom come, your will be done.”

And if we are willing, God is willing to answer that request to serve him.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Multiple choice question

The actual purpose of Christianity is
A. To make people feel at peace within themselves
B. To improve society
C. To avoid hell and to warn others to avoid hell
D. To keep the churches financially viable.
E. No more and no less than what any other religion or philosophy can do, if taken seriously.
F. To have a true relationship with the only true God. 
G. to help find success and comfort in this life and the next.
H. To get people into churches.
I. To break down barriers
J To rehabilitate people from almost any bad habit
K. To provide a crutch to lean on
L. Cheap music concerts for the masses
M. To give people something to believe in.
N. To give old people, old fashioned people and misfits somewhere to belong.
O. Nothing logical or scientific
P. Like a social club but less exciting/.practical
Q. Like a social club but with stronger morals
R. To get people to donate their money.
S. To teach the 10 commandments.
T. To teach Sunday school to children.
U. To preserve a historically significant era.
V. To convert others to Christianity.
W. To baptize as many people as possible
X. To proclaim the sovereign Lordship of Jesus.
Y. To propagate the Bible
Z. All of the above

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Our lose-lose situation.

I am writing to try and put in some sort of order, my thoughts and understanding of the Uniting Church decision regarding the definition of marriage, and how that affects me and how I think it affects our local congregation.

I am an elder in our congregation.

The decision and it's lead up, on 13th July 2018, has caused personal internal turmoil in me and many other members of the Uniting Church across Australia. It is a dividing issue.

Our congregation numbers between 20 to 50 on any given Sunday, we are mostly over 50 in age, with many above 70. Our young families are a minority.

A significant number in the congregation have family members who identify as homosexual. As far as I know, no one within our usual congregation identifies as homosexual.

The denominational and theological background of our congregation is diverse, some being in the church since Union occured in the 70s, others joining the congregation by default or through frindship and conversion.

As far as I know, our congregation has never experienced a revival, and we certainly experienced a significant division when item 84 was passed in 2003. (Allowing homosexual people to be ordained and hold positions of leadership in our denomination)

I was very close to leaving at that point in time, but my spiritual searching at the time led me and my wife to remain as active members, despite the fact that many close friends left the congregation.

On our front sign, at the bottom, there is the statement "We are a Bible based church". This is a remnant of the congregation pre-item-84-split, but I am glad it is there.

I myself was born Roman catholic, practicing as a child and teenager, later drifting from christian faith, but experiencing a heart felt return to christian faith through friends at University, via the Anglican movement "Evangelical Union". Later I was deeply influenced and theologically taught via a group called "New Creation Ministry" under the headship of Geoffrey Bingham. I hold to reformed theology, the centrality of the cross, salvation by grace alone, and the expectation of a bodily return of Christ and a bodily resurrection. I believe in heaven and hell.

As someone living often in rural areas, I was naturally drawn to Baptist churches, which is the denomination where I met my wife and where we were married. But on arriving to our current home of 25 years, it seemed the Baptsit Church had closed. It was actually on temporary recession at the time, it did close several years later, and some of that congregation joined the Uniting Church.

As a congregation, our theological level of understading remains in many ways, limited, it's not really a subject of conversation, being somewhat dependant on the leadership of a minister, and over all, very willing to abide by the decisions and direction of the Uniting Church as a body.

After the split we experienced in 2003,  our congregation briefly considered joining the Assembly of Confessing Churches. The move was overwhelmingly defeated, and at the time, though sad, I was in no way surprised, and willing to continue on in my role at the church.

Now with the new Assembly decision to redifine marriage, I am personally no longer comfortable with the theological framework of our denomination.

My initial response was to speak out, whenever I had the opportunity, however, this has not been received well. I am now realizing that some in our congregation are strongly in favour of the decision to redefine marriage, others are willing to accept what seems to be a very reasonable approach by the Uniting Church, "allowing" Ministers to choose whether or not they wish to conduct same sex marriages themselves.

Many of those others do not wish to upset or offend members of the congregation who have homosexual loved ones.

 I myself, do not wish to offend our congregation, but I do want to hold to my understanding of what Jesus teaches. Though I am willing to accept varying views on creation, the role of women in leadership, the many styles of communion, and many other more peripheral Christian teachings, to me, "marriage" is not on the list of peripheral, less important theology.
This is particularly beause of my understanding that human marriage is a gift, sign, and witness of thedeep and mysterious truth of Christ's own relationship with thewhole ofchriistendom, the Church representing the bride, and Jesus being the head and the groom.

Apart from all of this, the idea of becoming somewhat "rogue" (my own term), by joining a dissenting group, is not at all palatable to many in the congregation, particularly if therer is a threat to the ACC leaving the UCA.

And what of scripture?

To many in the congregation, the interpretation and application of the Bible passages is best left to those in authority, who are, by and large, trusted. It would not be considered a general need for individuals to know and understand the more detailed theology of Christianity, after all it can be a minefield, and a source of division, which is, of course, opposite to the goal of the"Uniting" church.

Harmony, compliance, and service would be more highly considered within our congregation than proclaimation and theological understanding.

Of course this leaves us vulnerable to false teaching, and more willing to accept dogma from the heads of the church than Catholics from the Pope. In an ideal world, our leaders would be theologically undefiled, and the risk to congregations such as ours, minimal.
 But in saying this, I am not absolving our congregation from our obligation to search out and apply the Holy Scriptures for ourselves.

The decision of the general assembly to add a new definition of marriage, complying with Australia's "Yes vote" to same sex marriage, to many seems a moral victory.

To others, like me, shock has led to grief and confusion, as clearly, my understanding of the deep and mysterious purpose of marriage in the teachings of Jesus, appears defiled.

It feels like a cancer has taken root, one that will slowly invade and destroy the church.

Apostacy and false teaching are strong words, but, in my view, apply to the Uniting Churches understanding of sexuality in the context of Christian faith and expression.

But, my strong views can be taken as unnecessary scare mongering, and deliberate undermining of an otherwise loving and harmonious congregation.

It was with shock, that I heard the words said, that I am out to destroy our church.

After a sleepless night considering these words seriously, I know in my heart that that is furthest from my mind and heart. But, sadly, I sense that my days within our congregation are soon to close.

My prayer is that revival would occur, that many in our congregation would be stirred by God, the Holy Spirit, to a new understanding of what a great salvation we have received from our Lord Jesus, and that His Word, sweeter than honey and more precious than gold, would be honoured above all else.

Monday, November 12, 2018


1. Brothers, sisters let us seek the Lord
Let us call upon the one who made us.
Humbly asking for a willing heart
to proclaim with joy the hope of nations.

May a hunger fill this land
For righteousness and truth,
every heart be drawn to
His salvation   

Come Holy Spirit, flood our lives
transform us by the love of Christ
and set our hearts on fire
bring revival

May every child, young or old
receive the saving grace of God
and set our hearts on fire
Bring revival

2. See the gathering of great multitudes
overflowing every congregation.
Hear the voices of God’s people rise
In a joyful song of adoration

When a hunger fills this land
For righteousness and truth,
every heart is drawn to
Your salvation                   

chorus x 2

Let a hunger be in me
to tell of your great love
as my heart is overcome

Let a hunger be in me
to sing of your great love
as my heart is won by
your salvation


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Rich Man and Lazarus. Luke 16 19-31.

(This is a full sermon prepared for this coming Sunday, I apologise for it's length.)

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.
20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

For many this is one of the more difficult and confronting passages of the New Testament.

Is this simply a parable, with only fiction regarding the characters and setting? Or is there truth in the story. If it is a warning parable, who is being warned?
Who do the characters represent? What can we take away for us today from this teaching of Jesus?

To begin with I want to describe the setting within Luke.

Chapter 15, prior to this chapter, is one of the most loved chapters of the New Testatment.

Here we find the deeply moving story of the prodigal son.
Though it seems simply a story told by Jesus to explain a truth, many over the years have taken the story to heart as though it were factual. And who can truly say? The reality of the relationships and actions are irrefutable.

Chapter 15 deals with many issues of the lost being found, starting with the lost coin, then the lost sheep and then the lost son. These teachings are given in the context of the Pharisees and teachers of the law being critical of Jesus association with Tax collectors and sinners. The stories imply that there is great hope for the Tax collectors and sinners, but are critical of the Pharisees and teachers of the law.
If we identify with sinners, then there is hope also for us.

Chapter 16 then presents us with difficult teaching. Firstly of the shrewd manager, who, for self preservation, undercuts his masters debtors to gain favour when he is jobless, finishing unexpectedly, with the famous teaching that you cannot serve both God and money. Then a small avalanche of issues are mentioned in brief, including the issue of not a single stroke of a pen being removed from the law. Following this is his teaching on divorce and adultery, which has no marital unfaithfulness clause mentioned in Luke.

We then come to todays passage on Luke 16:19-21 The Rich Man and Lazarus.

Verse 19
The Rich Man is not named. What Jesus describes is that every day he feasts sumptuously, or lives in luxury, depending on which version you read. Much like most of us in Australia.

He had so much food that scraps would fall from his table.

In Australia, our scraps end up in the garbage. I am certain that our scraps would be considered good nutrition in some parts of the world.

Verse 20 states that at the rich man’s gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores.

There are a number of points I would like to make here. Firstly Lazarus was laid at his Gate. Some versions say stretched out, others say he lay at the gate.
It seems to me that Lazarus was not in a good state of health, and the implication is that someone else or a number of other people laid him there. But it is possible he dragged himself there. The sores may represent injury, like the man who was attackd by robbers and helped by the good Samaritan in Luke 10. Or illness, such as leprosy, or scurvey or some other skin break down from lack of nutrition and care.

It is not uncommon in other countries, that beggars are placed at certain strategic points by others, where they are most likely to gain some charity from passers by. Certainly if you visit the city of Sydney, there you will find on the footpath, at crowded places, people with bowls hoping for gifts.
The famous story of the paralytic in Luke chapter 5, describes men carrying a paralytic to Jesus. When they couldn’t get in to the house the usual way, because of the crowd blocking the entrance, they famously lowered him down through the roof.

These men must have cared for the paralytic and knew that Jesus had power to heal. It is interesting that what Jesus actually did was forgive his sins.

But in this story, Lazarus was laid at the gate of the Rich man.

Who put him there, we don’t know, but as we view this story from a distance, would it be too much to suggest that God put him there?

Who believes, like me, that it is God who places certain people in our paths in life? Our parents, our friends, our spouses to be, our children, our employers, our enemies (so that we can love them). Ephesians goes to the extraordinary length to state that God even prepares our good works in advance for us to fulfil.

Eph 2:10* For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

The next question is, if God places Lazarus at the Rich mans gate, WHY does he do so?

The first answer is, do we actually have a right to ask God why?
He is the potter, we are the clay.
The second part of this answer is to remind us that everything God does is for the good of those who love him. Even Joseph proclaims to his brothers, that when he was thrown in to prison and forgotten for years and years, they (the brothers) intended it for evil, but God intended it for good.

Genesis50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

But getting back to Lazarus, whoever put him there, felt there was plenty of food to go around, and therefore Lazarus should benefit easily from some of the fall-off.

It was a Jewish principle in the Old Testatment, that when the people of God harvested their crops, they would not be ultra greedy, they would leave the “gleanings” for the poor and needy. You know, the corners of the paddock where the header can’t quite reach, or the smaller fruit trees on the edge of the paddock.

Leviticus 19:9-10 “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.

So it wasn’t unheard of for a beggar to benefit from the Rich mans bounty.

BUT there is a less obvious answer, which makes more sense as you read further.

Maybe it was for the sake of the rich man that the beggar was placed at his gate?

God knew who was more needy, and from the reading of the whole passage, it seems to me that the Rich man was more needy, and in most danger, and that this beggar named Lazarus possibly held the key for redemption of the Rich man.

But unfortunately there was a chasm fixed between the Beggar, and the Rich man.
OK you might think I’ve skipped forward some verses. The chasm I refer to was called a gate. But as far as Lazarus was concerned, it was uncrossable.

Yes, Dogs were able to come to Lazarus and lick his sores. Clearly they had more mercy than the Rich man. As implied by the word “Even”.

The rich man on the other hand seemed to take no notice of Lazarus, after all, he had made his bed, he could lay in it. It is so easy for us to justify our lack of love.

I imagine the dogs ate well from the food that fell from the rich man’s table, that Lazarus longed to eat. In Mark 7:26 the Syrophonecian woman asked Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus was unwilling, comparing her to the dogs, stating without shame, that it would be wrong to give to the dogs the food reserved for the children of Israel. But she provoked him with her faith saying that even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table, Jesus recognised her great faith and healed her daughter. Jesus cannot resist true faith.

So the dogs, if they belonged to the rich man, were able to get in and out of the property despite the closed gate (like my dogs)
But as far as Lazarus was concerned, the gate was an unsurmountable chasm. And the rich man was unwilling to help.

Did the rich man know Lazarus was there?

The answer is clearly yes. Firstly we read that Lazarus longed to fill his stomach with the scraps that fell from the rich mans table. This implies that Lazarus could see these scraps, and if Lazarus could see the scraps, the Rich man could see Lazarus.  Secondly, in the more horrific part of this passage, the Rich man recognizes and names Lazarus from a distance.

So although no mention is made of any acknowledgement of Lazarus by the Rich man in the start of this passage, it is clear that the Rich man was aware of Lazarus and chose to ignore him and his plight.

Was he too busy, did he have a personal grudge against him, was he sick of beggars taking advantage of him, was he the prodigal brother who despite returning to the father and being welcomed back, after the father died, was banished from the property by his jealous angry brother? (I made that up) We don’t know. What we do know is that the implied lack of mercy on the part of the rich man towards Lazarus seems to work strongly against him after his death.
Verse 22 states, “the time came when the beggar died.”

Was the Rich man finally relieved? No more groaning beggar at the gate?

Should we ever feel relief when someone dies?

Let me give some unrelated examples.

Is there relief when a hardened murderer in America undergoes the death sentence?
Is their relief when Saddam Hussein, or Bin Laden are killed?
Is there relief when an unwanted child is aborted?
Is there relief when someone suffering from a terminal illness finally takes their last breath?

As we know, euthanasia is a hot topic at the moment, and Australian society seems to be welling towards the legalisation of euthanasia, having just succeeded in the debate over same sex marriage. Like the builders of the tower of Babel, the sky does not seem at all the limit to modern day, western society.

So Lazarus may have groaned with pain, and hunger, or he may have been silent, we don’t know, but the time came when he died, and he was no longer at the gate.

Who took him away?

According to Jesus, it was the angels.

And they took him to Abraham’s side, or Abraham’s bosom.

That place is a special place of intimacy, as close as anyone could be to another, eg a husband and wife. A babe with its nursing mother.

If angels carried him away, maybe it was the angels that had laid Lazarus at the Gate of the Rich man, for the sake of both the rich man and Lazarus, but after he died, they took him to Abraham.

If the Rich man felt any relief, it didn’t last long, just like all of us, he came to the end of his life and died.

But it seems the angels had little to do with the Rich man after he died.

He may have been able to afford purple linen, fine clothes, and lashings of fine food, but his money could not buy him an angel train to heaven after death.

He had served Money, not God.

The rich man died and was buried. And he was in Hell.

Jesus mentions hell several times in the gospels. He warns that this place is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. He uses those exact words at least 7 times.

In Revelations 21, we read that God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, if we are with him in Heaven, but in hell there is crying, without consolation, and gnashing of teeth which implies frustration, anger, despair, regret, guilt, shame. And pain, I know of people who have worn down their teeth from constant clenching from pain.
Another thought is that the gnashing of teeth is by demons who will share that terrible place with us.

I believe that Hell is true, I believe that Satan exists, I believe in dark forces, often masquerading as angels and powers of good. I also believe in a literal creation, a literal Adam and Eve, and that every word of the Bible, which I do not understand fully, is God’s own word. And that we are extremely foolish to ignore it.

So the Rich man is in hell, and if we read Luke chapter 13: 22 it states that those in hell will see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, as well as many from North, South, East and West at a great feast.

But in this passage, it simply states that the Rich man is in Hell, in torment, and in the midst of his torment, he can see Abraham, far away, with Lazarus close by his side.

It is interesting that the one he can see and name, is the very one he failed to help.

Maybe this is part of the torment of hell, that in hell we will be able to see exactly how we sinned, and have no ability to do anything to relieve or to atone for the guilt of those sins.

That would be torment.

(Not that we ourselves can atone for even the smallest sin.)

The rich man in Hell sees Abraham far off, and calls out to him.

I imagine it might be like being on opposite sides of a raging river, or a deep, deep canyon.

He calls out “Father Abraham”. This has some implications.

Firstly it shows that he recognises Abraham, though he had never previously met him. Secondly he calls him father.

Who is Abraham?

In Genesis chapter 11 we read that in ten generations from Noah, Abram (Abraham) was born. In Chapter 12 God calls Abram (Abraham), and promises to make his name great and that he will be the father of many or all nations, and that all who bless him will be blessed, and all who curse him will be cursed.  Abraham is said to believe God, and that this faith of Abraham, this trusting of who God is and what he says, was credited to him as righteousness.

Ge 15:6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

In other words, when Abraham listens to God’s word, believes it, trusts God, which he shows by his actions, this trusting is rewarded with the status of righteousness. Which means that Abraham has full acceptance from God as though he had never broken any law of God.
Abraham was a sinner. His acceptance from God was not based on his perfect life, but on God’s willingness to forgive and atone for all his sin. And so it is no surprise that Abraham is in heaven. Abraham is chosen by God, and becomes the father of all who are chosen by God, including us today. By faith we are considered the descendants of Abraham.

The Rich man remembers his roots. All Jews are descendants of Abraham.
Unfortunately in this case, that blood relationship alone does not get him to heaven.

In Luke 3:7-9 we read
 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptised by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
  Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.
 The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Being a child of Abraham, is not enough. To be baptized by John in preparation for Jesus coming, repentance is absolutely necessary.

In Hell it is too late to repent.

So the Rich man sees Abraham and calls out to him , “Father Abraham, have pity on me”.  What he asks next is interesting.

Verse 24.  He is in torment, and he wants relief, but he does not ask to be released from Hell, maybe he knows that he is getting exactly what he deserves.

Instead he recognizes Lazarus, and he gets an idea. He just wants a drop of water on his tongue.

Why does he want a drop of water on his tongue?

Well James, the brother of Jesus, in his letter states
James 3:6* The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

The tongue has more nerve endings than almost any other part of the body, so it is particularly scary to think that our tongues would be set on fire in hell.

So it makes sense that the Rich mans wants some water on his tongue, he actually says he wants his tongue to be cooled because he is “in agony in this fire”.

So he suggests to Abraham that he send Lazarus

This is interesting.

Why send Lazarus

Is Lazarus still bottom of the rung, someone he can order around?
Or does he have some sense that Lazarus actually cares about him, even though he never lifted a finger to help him?

Does he somehow sense that Lazarus, if given an opportunity would also take pity and somehow reach into the fire to let a drop of water trickle form his finger into his mouth?

Maybe Lazarus was laid at the Rich mans gate, not only to possibly be fed, but to witness, and share with him the good news of forgiveness in Jesus?

The rich man only wants a drop of water, but in reality he could use a furphy (classic Australian water tank). Or a row of fire engines. Why does he ask only for a drop?

Maybe he knows he does not deserve anything more.

Maybe a drop of water is all he could ask for in return for the many days/weeks/ months or years of ignoring Lazarus suffering.

But more than this, when we are desperate, sometimes we say that we would be satisfied with very little, rather than nothing.

The prodigal son, when he was in his misery longed for the food that the swine were eating, and thought of his father, and thought that he would be more than happy to simply be a servant, or a slave in his fathers household. He repented.

Lazarus himself longed only for the scraps that came from the rich mans table.

When the woman who had the years of haemorrhaging saw Jesus she just want to touch the edge of his cloak.
David said in Psalm 84:10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

And the amazing thing is that Abraham heard the rich man and replied.

“ Son.”

It is the same address that the father of the prodigal son addresses the older brother. “My son”

Yes the Rich man was Abraham’s son, but he was in Hell.

Abraham then explains the reality of the current situation.
He asks the Rich man to remember that he had good things throughout his life, and that Lazarus had bad things. He doesn’t mention the fact that nothing was shared between them, there seems no need, but now the tables have turned, but more than this, there is a chasm between them, a chasm that cannot be crossed, and it is fixed. God himself cannot and will not remove this chasm.

What Abraham does not say clearly is why the Rich man is in hell. The implication is because he didn’t share his wealth or show mercy, but Abraham does not say this he simply describes the situation.

“You received your good things”
This reminds me of Jesus teaching in Matthew.

6:1-6“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

So maybe any good thing the rich man may have done, was boasted about in public, and he received all of his reward there and then.

Regardless of why the rich man went to hell, it sounds like once we die, we are stuck with what we get, heaven or hell. You can’t cross from one to the other.

So whether people want to cross from one side to the other, they cannot. Who would want to cross over to hell?

Surely you would be mad to?

But Paul says in Romans, that he would be willing to be lost for the sake of his Jewish brothers.

Ro 9:3* For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race,

And what of Jesus, did he go to hell?

The passage in 1Peter 3:19 is tricky but may imply this.

1 Peter 3:18-22 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience towards God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand--with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

Jesus was certainly willing to be cut off, and die the death of a sinner, of a rich man with no mercy. It is only the death of Jesus that can atone for even the smallest sin. Without the cross, all of us would be heading for this place of torment, this place of crying and gnashing of teeth, hell, with no hope of rescue.

As for who would want to cross over to heaven?

Again, there is no point wanting to be in heaven if you don’t want to be with God, because that is where God lives.

People jokingly talk of heaven as boring, but the Bible talks of a great wedding feast, a party, a celebration, greater than ever before.

The Rich man certainly would prefer not to be in Hell, but unlike the celebrities, he does not yell “get me out of here” he is strangely accepting as though that is where he belongs, not that complaining would solve his dilemma. Deep down he knows he is stuck. And there is no relief.

So then the Rich man has another thought, maybe for the first time in his life, he thinks of someone else, his five brothers, still alive in his father’s house.

He wants Abraham to send Lazarus back to the land of the living, to warn his brothers, because he knows they are also heading straight for hell.

So it takes being in hell for this rich man to get interested in evangelism. He obviously believes that there is less of a chasm between heaven and earth than heaven and hell. That Abraham has the power to resurrect Lazarus and send him back.

Is it a coincidence that Jesus himself resurrects a true Lazarus in John chapter 11.

But then comes the scariest part of the whole passage.

Abraham replies to the Rich man that his brothers have Moses and all the prophets, and that they should listen to them. They don’t need Lazarus.

What does this mean, “Moses and all the prophets”?

Does Jesus use this phrase elsewhere?

In Chapter 24, on the road to Emmaus, Jesus appears to two disciples, they don’t recognise him, and he chastises them for not believing all that the prophets had spoken, and in verse 27 it says, “ beginning with Moses and all the prophets he explained to them what was said in all the scripture concerning him.

It’s not that Moses and the prophets were alive and able to preach and warn the brothers about hell. But Moses wrote the first five books of the bible and the prophets wrote the rest of the Old Testament.

When Abraham said that the brothers were to listen to Moses and all the Prophets, he meant the Bible. They were to listen to the Bible.
That was the purpose of the Bible, to warn them and instruct them how to avoid Hell.

The Bible has everything we need to avoid hell.

This is why the Gideon’s society still put one in every hotel room in the world. This is why the Bible society is translating the scriptures into every language they can.
This is why we read the bible at church, this is why we read the bible at home, this is why we do bible study. Not because it makes us good preachers, good ministers, good people, it actually shows us the opposite, that we are truly sinners, but it  also shows us how to escape the torment of hell.

2 Timothy 3:14-16 states “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,”

Back to the passage.
Then, in verse 30 we read, what I believe is the saddest word in the whole passage.


Even in Hell the rich man is true to his colours and says “no”. No to the bible, No to Moses and the prophets, no to bible study, no to the word of God, no to repentance, no to father Abraham, no to God.


The rich man argues with Abraham. (We often have great plans or suggestions for God. Luckily he ignores them.)

The Rich man argues that if someone from the dead goes back to those living, then they will certainly believe and repent. Sounds like a good plan, sounds bullet proof.
But this is a worldly idea, it is a desperate “fix-it” from someone who has never repented, or practiced faith from the heart, or listened to God’s call, or loved God or his neighbour.

Abraham in the story then states the most important truth.

If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets (and by listening, he means believing) then they won’t listen to someone who rises from the dead.

So if they do not believe the Old Testament, which tells of Gods wonderful act of creation, of the fall of man, Noah and the flood, of Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob Joseph and then Moses. And all the prophets, including the Psalms and Isaiah, -who we know from Jesus himself, speak of Jesus-

If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.

And sadly, I believe this is still true today. We know that Jesus has risen from the dead, appeared to the apostles, and lastly to Paul. Their response and witness is recorded in the New Testament. The church has spread like wildfire around the world and throughout history as a result. There are revivals happening right now in other countries, and we here today are also fruit of the resurrection of Jesus.

Yet many still ignore Moses and the prophets and their strong foretelling of Jesus.
 In Genesis 3:15 after the fall, God states that the seed of woman would crush the serpents head.
Deuteronomy 18:18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.
Isaiah 53:3-6 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

These are just 3 of the many Old Testament prophecies that are fulfilled in the person of Jesus.

So the sad conclusion to this passage is that Hell is certainly awaiting sinners who do not repent, and that the message that helped Lazarus avoid hell, that was ignored by the Rich man was clearly stated in the words of Moses and the Prophets. The Old Testament. The Bible.

Friends, today the Bible is largely ignored.

Certainly by Western society, and even by some churches.

Yet that is where we find truth, peace, understanding, and the message of forgiveness that comes from the sacrificial giving of Jesus body and blood.

In this passage, Abraham represents God the father, and Lazarus may actually represent Jesus, his only begotten Son, who is described as being in the bosom of the Father.

Joh 1:18* No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (NIV)
Joh 1:18* No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (ASV)

The Rich man represents us as individuals and as humanity.

If Lazarus represents Jesus, then what was he doing at the Rich man’s gate?

I find two New Testament scriptures that help answer this question.

Revelations 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

Luke 13:24-29 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

Friends, today Jesus is knocking. Asking us to turn, repent, believe and trust Him. The Bible holds all the answers that we need to be right with God, and the answers are a lot easier than what people imagine. The Holy Spirit guides us in our understanding.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

May God bless these words to your salvation.


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Big Machine

I saw it and was amazed. It was gigantic, like a tunnel digger or bridge builder. A massive structure in itself of grand design. To start, it took a lot of skilful people, engineers, making sure that everything was ready, the fuel tank was full, the pressure gauges were set, all the dials were at the right places. All the operators in position. Many checks and rechecks, like a jumbo before takeoff. Once the machine was started it needed to be fed at one end to produce its result at the other. Not enough raw material and the machine would shut down.
Maybe it was a factory, not a machine. With many employees and a very good product. Sliced bread.
Almost anyone can make their own bread, but sliced bread is very convenient. And a factory that supplies millions of people must be fed well with raw materials. It's mechanised mixers and ovens need people to keep them running. It needs to work around the clock.
Sadly, some of the smaller bakeries are forced to close in the aftermath of such a succesful grand factory like this.

But what is the purpose of the factory? Is it primarily to feed people or to make a profit for its owners? Some would say both.

But what if the owner was already well off, or chose to lead a spartan lifestyle. What if the owner was particularly generous and wanted to provide his product at a minimal price?

But what if it wasn’t a bread factory but rather a biscuit factory. Bread is a staple, but biscuits are a luxury. Again people can make their own biscuits but most prefer the convenience of shop bought biscuits. Apart from anything else they have a great shelf life.

To entice people with that brand of biscuits they need special ingredients, a great product and, of course, advertising. This is also because there are competitors, or maybe this is a new company trying to break into a market already saturated. So they have to present their product in a new and original way. There would be no possibility for a new business getting a foot in the door without being professional in every respect, including public relations, advertising, packaging, health information, and attention to customers.

Would the company warn customers about their product being potentially unhealthy, and that it is best used sparingly? Or would they be tolerant and politely silent with regard to customers over indulging, giving the individual the entire responsibility of self control?

And what of celebrity endorsements? Would this be sought and paid for? Would they be honest, genuine with the product presented realistically? After all this is how industry works. Would they be satisfied to reach a stable turnover, or would they branch out, franchise, become international?

But this is not a machine, this is not a factory, this is not a company. This is a church, a mega church. It is a multimedia machine, a brand, an investment. It's mechanism is vast and complicated, needing and feeding many, many employees, and needing many thousands of attendees and their regular gifts in order to continue operating.

Pray for the big churches.
Their presence alone is a stumbling block for both those in their midst and those looking on from afar.
May their witness be independent of their needs.

But also try some home made bread.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Believers Prayer

Father God,

Are there any words that I could say to change my standing in your sight?
For I have sinned, and words alone cannot atone for all I’ve done.

If my prayer were able to undo the things I’ve done, and correct what I have left undone, then surely I would need only my prayer and not your grace.

But I’m compelled by heart and conscience, to confess that I have fallen short of all that was within my power to do of good, and have chosen instead to do wrong.

I truly am a sinner.

Dear Lord, I ask you to forgive me.