Sunday 8th July 2012 – Who does he think he is?

The Word This Week

Thoughts on the Word

Mark 6:1-13 (NRSV)

He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

This week’s Gospel reading sees Jesus return home to Nazareth, where he is rejected by friends and family.  He suffers the fate of so many of the prophets of God, as the people listen to him, only to turn away from him saying “‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ ” They took offence at him – basically saying who does he think he is?! Does he think he is better than us?!

It is something that we often overlook in Jesus ministry – he was a prophet of God as well as the Son of God – and God incarnate!.  It is important to understand that in the Bible a prophet of God is not necessarily someone who tells the future – though they sometimes did warn of future events and consequences.  The word prophet comes from the Greek –pro + ph-e t -e s—literally, one who speaks “on behalf of.”  A prophet then is not one who looks into the future, but one who has insight and an understanding of the present. The biblical prophets were  who were called by God speak to their communities, to pass on the message of God to those who needed to hear it.   The community would gladly accept them as a great prophet of God when their message was affirming. But when they criticized the community and challenged it to repent and turn back to God, the prophet was often rejected along with the message.

Jesus was the ultimate prophet, he came bearing a message of God so important, so powerful that if we accept it then we are reconciled with our creator.  However there were (and are) a large number of people who ‘take offence at him’ and his message.  The people of Jesus’ home town took offense when they saw this up-start come in preaching repentance and salvation.  Wasn’t this just the carpenter’s son? What makes him think he can come home and start telling us how to live – does he think is better than us?

I wonder how often do we as followers of Jesus get jealous of those who are gifted with God’s grace in areas that we aren’t?  Are you on one of those who rejects or gets annoyed with people because of the way they preach, teach, talk or walk? I know I have been guilty! I am maturing slowly through much prayer and reflection – though I have a long way to go!

In other circumstances, we might be the ones who feel unappreciated, overlooked or rejected.  We have our own gifts, and it can be upsetting for us if we perceive that we have been rejected when we genuinely possess an ability or want to offer our service or advice.  We would do well to remember the words of St Paul in today’s New Testament reading:

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NRSV)
Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Truly the Grace of God is sufficient for us in any circumstance.  He will never abandon us, and even though we would ask for redress of our perceived injustice, if we place our faith in Christ, then truly His Grace will prevail in our lives. 

As you move forward this week and you find yourself frustrated, or annoyed at some circumstance, reflect on the life of Jesus, and St Paul – and so many other saints through the ages.  Remember if his grace was sufficent for them – it is certainly sufficent for us also

Sunday 10th June 2012 – It’s the thought that counts…

The Word This Week:

1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15) and Psalm 138 
Genesis 3:8-15
and Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

Mark 3:20-35

Thoughts on the Word:

Genesis 3:8-15

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent tricked me, and I ate.’ The Lord God said to the serpent,
‘Because you have done this,
   cursed are you among all animals
   and among all wild creatures;
upon your belly you shall go,
   and dust you shall eat
   all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
   and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
   and you will strike his heel.’

This week I am going to focus on the alternate Old Testament reading from Genesis.  I want us to focus on this reading because it contains something very very special.  In this reading from Genesis where we see God confront the first humans for their sin, we see the first hints of the Gospel that saves us.  In fact verse 15 is often referred to as the protevangelion, or the ‘first Gospel’. 

So let’s take a journey through the reading…

We begin with Adam and Eve, attempting to hide from God – this is the first sign we see of the effect of sin entering the world, as with it came fear and shame, things that had not existed before. It is the beginning of a very slippery slope, as we see within one generation of the first sin being committed, humanity descends to such a depth that the first murder of occurs.  Think about that – within just one generation we as a species went from a perfect, sinless existence with our creator in a world that didn’t know pain, suffering or death to killing each other out of jealousy. If that isn’t a warning to us about the consequences of turning away from God, then what is?!

Of course their hiding is futile and they are subject to interrogation by God.  God of course knows exactly what has happened, and his questions should be seen in that light.  They were designed to illicit confessions, not information.  Being just, the divine inquisitor sentences all three parties of the incident, however in today’s reading we only see the sentence handed down to the serpent.

Now the serpent of course is symbolic for Satan, and the language used is important.  He is condemned, accursed and put at war with humanity.  He is told that while he will strike the heel of the descendents of Eve, his head will be struck – or crushed.   This language is indicative of the defeat of Satan at the hands of one man – Jesus Christ, who crushed Satan underfoot with his redeeming work on the cross, and resurrection from the dead.  God was telling the snake that while there will be a long battle, in the end it is humanity who will triumph, through the work of Christ. 

So we can see that while it was a sentence of judgement to the snake – it was also a promise to humanity.  It is the first time in the Bible that we see God’s promise of salvation.  While justly condemning the sinfulness of humanity and the deception and evil of the serpent, God at the same time says I will provide a way out.  I will ensure you a way back home.

From the very beginning God knew he would send Jesus, that we might be saved.  Even as his heart was breaking at the sinfulness of Adam and Eve, he had already prepared the answer.  What a comfort that is! We have been in the plans of God since the beginning of time.  Since before he created the world God knew what would happen, and he planned a way for all of us to come back home, and rebuild the broken relationship between humanity and God.  He knew that we were incapable of doing it – we are lost in sin, and no efforts on our own behalf could ever bring us back to God.  Knowing this he prepared the answer, and at the right time He delivered our salvation.

Take comfort my friend, because God loves you! He loves you so much that he planned your salvation before the world was even made.  They say it is the thought that counts… no one has ever put this much planning and effort into offering a gift.  God planned this gift for us from the beginning – have you reached out your arms and accepted it?

Sunday 5th August 2012 – Bread of life 2


The Word This Week:

Thoughts on the Word:

John 6:24-35

So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”

Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

This week we continue our journey through the 6th chapter of the Gospel according to St John. We see something extraordinary in this reading, Jesus actually refers to himself as the bread of life! However I want to start by examining what Jesus tells us in the first portion of the Gospel reading… “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life…” Now we must understand here that Jesus isn’t advocating that we all give up our jobs and go on the dole.  He isn’t saying that we shouldn’t work to feed ourselves or our families. What he is saying to us is that these material things should not be our focus, they are a necessary thing, but not where our heart should be set.  It is something that I myself have lost track of in the past – my focus was on work, money, paying the bills, ensuring that we had all the best of everything that we could get.  Where this led me was to a dark place, where my focus on these matters of material needs and wants was all I could think about, and when things got hard and the pressures of this world came to bear – as they inevitably do, I didn’t know where to turn.  I was a Christian at the time, but I just didn’t have my mind and my heart focused in the right direction.  It didn’t occur to me that I had my priorities wrong and that by turning my attention to Jesus rather than focusing on the material problems, I may be able to see some light through the darkness.  No for me the focus was on just ‘coping’ with the issues as best I could …

When I finally realised the problem was that I had my priorities wrong, and changed my focus to Jesus, I finally began to truly understand the meaning of passages of scripture like this one.  At the very beginning of John, we learn that Jesus is the light of the world, he shines in the darkness and the darkness will never overcome him! When we place our focus on Jesus, we are focused on the light, and as a result we can see clearly, we will not stumble.  It is when we turn away from him that we find ourselves stumbling around in the dark.  Likewise when we spiritually  hunger and thirst, there is one we can turn to for solace, and be fed.  Jesus fulfills all of our spiritual needs, he bridges the gap for us to the spiritual perfection that we as a species were designed to live in.  While we cannot live in that perfection in this life due tour fallen nature, we can however experience it through our relationship with Christ, and we can move towards that perfection through sanctifying ourselves in obedience to him. 

We should also understand that just like the Israelites wandering in the desert, we will be provided with this bread from heaven, even when our movement towards sanctification stumbles through sin.  The Israelites were provided with Manna even when the were less than appreciative, we to will always have access to the bread of life, even when we stumble. Our own virtue is not a prerequisite to receive a this nourishing food, but through feeding on it we move closer to God, and thus further away from the darkness that causes us to stumble.

As we move into the week, let us ask ourselves where our focus is.  Is it on fulfilling only our material needs and wants – or are we focused on fulfilling our spiritual hunger through eating of the bread of life?

I’m A God Girl….How I became one of those people who keeps talking about God.

For me to become a Christian, I really didn’t have any big hurdles to jump.  I was raised in a Christian home.  I grew up regularly attending a church.  I went to church camps.  I was familiar with the buildings, the language and the general practice of Christian life.  Hubs and I have both significantly grown in our personal relationships with Christ since we married, and we’re raising our 3 children in a Christ centred house.  But it is only recently that I have been really comfortable talking about the things God is doing in my life. 

As I was growing up, I spoke with many people in various stages of their walk with Christ.  Some decided not to continue on that path.  Others inspired me.  You know that feeling you get when you know you’ve just met a Christian even though the topic didn’t come up?  The people who just radiate with peace.  Or the person who not only sees the cup as half full, but also can’t help but tell you about how God was involved in something.

As I left the park after the kids had a play date recently, it struck me.  I’ve become the latter of those two people.  I couldn’t help but tell them about how God had bought us to this town.  How Hubs feels called into ministry and I feel called to study so that I can have a supporting role in his ministry.  How when I pray about these things I keep being challenged to think outside of my comfort zone (an easy days drive to our parents) and when I start to pull back I get a very clear message ‘It’s not about your comfort.’  It’s exciting to be so in touch with God!

It’s easy easier to be open with people who you think will be happy to hear what you say.  God has been working on my resistance to sharing with non-believers too.  Recently I’ve been given two friends to encourage.  Previously I would fumble and stumble my way out of the conversation with some flippant comment which probably would leave the other person wondering what could possibly be appealing about being a Christian.   I was lukewarm when it came to sharing my faith.  Jesus doesn’t like lukewarm faith.  I prayed about this.  Over many years.  Many prayers were said, asking God to help me be a better witness to his Kingdom.

The big change in me occurred when I realised that I was caring way too much about what people thought of me, and not enough about what Jesus thought of me.  I was too worried about offending people and the possibility that they wouldn’t like me anymore.  I was still a little girl in the playground trying to gather up and keep friends.  It wasn’t until I took a good long look at the life of Jesus that I realised that I had it the wrong way around.  Sounds simple now!  Jesus wasn’t worried about offending people, his popularity or his comfort.  He was worried about YOU!  With that in mind, it’s become a lot easier for me to step out of my comfort zone and care a lot more about the eternal life of people I meet.  I’m still no Billy Graham/Joyce Meyer/Insert great speaker here!   I’m not sure that God wants me to be like them.  I just know that He’s making changes in me.

If you feel like you’ve been sharing a lukewarm faith and would like to change that, there are a few things you can do.  Firstly, pray specifically and expectantly.  Ask God to help you change the things that need changing.  It may be a distorted perspective, like mine.  You may feel like you just don’t have the words.  Or you have the words, but a stutter stops you getting them out.  God can work out anything that needs work.  Secondly, ask others to pray with or for you.  The prayers of others can be very powerful, and God listens to all prayers.  And thirdly, ask God to give you opportunities to share your faith.  Once you take the step of actively asking for opportunities, you will find yourself seeking them.  Don’t beat yourself up if you let one go, or if it didn’t go as well as you’d hoped.  Just add it to your prayers and keep going.

If you have any questions or if you would like me to pray for you, I’d love you to contact me, either in the comments, or via the Contact Us page.

Sunday 4th November 2012 – Feast of All Saints

The Word This Week:

Thoughts on The Word:

Revelation 21:1-6a

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’

 And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.

Today we celebrate the feast of All Saints.  Now I understand that there are many Christian denominations out there that have completely done away with the idea of celebrating saints days – and even this general thanksgiving and celebration of All Saints.  Can I say at the outset that I view that as a great shame.  We as Christians can learn so much from those who have come before us!   Today is about giving thanks for the gift to the world that the lives of Christians past, and present are and have been – it is not about putting these people in exalted positions in place of God – it is about looking to them as ones who point the way to God.  What do you think of when you recall the love and compassion of St Francis of Assisi, and the faith that made him say, whilst undergoing great pain and suffering which eventually led to his death: “I thank you, Lord God, for all my pains; if it pleases you, Lord increase them a hundredfold. I shall thankfully accept whatever sorrow you give, not sparing me; for in the fulfilment of your will I find my greatest solace.”

When I read of his life and death I give thanks to God, I pray to the Father that I might be able to emulate the faith, love and devotion of Francis – I certainly don’t elevate him to any position of deity.  That my dear friends is the point of days like this – we celebrate and give thanks for the Saints – for those known to us like Francis and for those who are unknown, the ones who have been and still are faithful servants in the Kingdom of God.  We pray today that like them we can be faithful, and we ask God that we might follow their example of devotion to God. 

On this day I also want us to remember that we are members of a communion of saints.  Those of us who recite the creed as part of our worship each week say that we believe in…  ‘the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.’ .  How often have you read or said this without thinking on what it means? If we are a part of a communion of people who have everlasting life what does that mean? Christian tradition has since the earliest times of the church held that this means that we faithful witnesses don’t worship alone, but that we worship together with all the angels and saints who have left this world and are now alive (cf. Jn 3:16) and in the presence of God. 

Please as you reflect on this reading from the Revelation of St John, look forward to the new heaven and the new earth, and give thanks for the promise contained within.  Give thanks for those Christians who are in the presence of God now, and for those who roam the earth now.  Pray that we like those who came before us can be faithful servants in the Kingdom of God, so that at the end of our earthly lives we might join with them in worshipping our King in eternal life.

I finish this week with this prayer I have blatantly plagiarised from the Anglican Communion Facebook page 🙂

Almighty God, your saints are one with you in the mystical body of Christ: give us grace to follow them in all virtue and holiness until we come to those inexpressible joys which you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday May 6th 2012 – God is love

The Word This Week

Acts 8:26-40
Psalm 22:25-31

1 John 4:7-21

John 15:1-8

Thoughts on The Word

1 John 4:7-21 (NRSV)

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

It is one of the most often quoted phrases from scripture – we hear people say it all the time… ‘God is love’, and as is evidenced in today’s reading this is true.  God is love but what does that mean?  How did St John the Apostle to whom this letter is attributed come to the conclusion that God is love? Well let’s take a look at the world through the eyes of John. 

John was a first hand witness and close follower of Jesus, he saw him preach, and teach and he saw him reach out to the weak and the needy and to the outcasts of society. He saw him heal the sick and feed the poor.  John also saw Jesus speak out against corruption and immorality, he watched him drive out the money changers from the temple and he saw him condemn the Pharisees for their hypocrisy.  Finally John saw the passion of Christ, he watched Jesus get nailed to the cross, he watched him raised up and he was there when he died.   Yes John saw love, the very essence and meaning of love personified in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  No-one had seen love more clearly and it was this understanding of love that led John to speak this great truth that God is love.  John understood that if Jesus is the very essence and meaning of Love, and Jesus is God, then God is love. 

So what does all this mean for us as those who are the recipients of the fruit of God’s love – salvation through the ultimate expression of love in Christ’s sacrifice. What are we to take from this revelation that Jesus (God) is love personified? John explains it for us quite clearly – we are to follow Jesus instructions, we are to love one another as he loves us.   We are to show God to the world through our lives and actions which should all be founded in love.  John explains that if we base all that we do on the premise of love then we abide in God and he abides in us. 

Reflect on that for a moment, God abides in us and we abide in him.  It is through following the example of Jesus, through committing to living a life of love personified that we truly experience and become one with God.  Yes love is the answer, love is the reason Jesus came down from heaven, and to love is the very essence of the commandments given to us by Jesus – We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and all our mind and all our soul – and we are to love our neighbour as ourselves. 

What is troubling is that love is often used in defence of behaviour that is against Christian principles.  We are told not to speak out against immoral behaviour, that we should ‘live and let live’ on the basis that ‘God is love’.  We are told that disagreeing with another persons lifestyle is wrong because ‘God is love’, and we should be welcoming and accepting of all behaviour and beliefs.  That is not the love that Jesus showed us, and it is not the love explained to us in Scripture.  Love sometimes means that you have to say no, it means that we must stand for what is right in the face of persecution.  To love someone does not mean to agree with all they do, say or believe – and love demands that when we are concerned about their behaviour or beliefs that we are honest about our concerns.  Jesus was certainly not silent when he saw behaviour that was against the will of God, we have already touched on him driving out the money changers, and making clear the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

How often do we hear or see others espousing the virtues of immoral or unjust behaviour and lifestyles, and yet so often we remain silent.  We don’t speak up for fear of the repercussions, What if they don’t like me anymore? What if they make fun of me? What if I am ridiculed for adhering to these values and this faith? What if it means family members will be angry or even disown me? What if… What if … What if…

What if Jesus had said what if they reject me? What if they ridicule me and beat me? What if they scourge me and nail me to a cross…?  It’s all too hard, I’ll just go back to Nazareth and finish my days as a carpenter… Of course Jesus KNEW this would happen, he even asked the Father if there was any other way – but of course he knew there wasn’t .  What he did is important, when he was being prompted to move in the direction of ridicule,  pain and suffering for the sake of you and me Jesus said  “… Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”(Luke 22:42 (ESV))  Jesus, bowed to the will of the Father and did what he knew was right and necessary because of his love for us.

There is this idea permeating through society that to love means that you can’t oppose bad or immoral behaviour, that to love means being completely accepting of all forms  of behaviour – regardless of how destructive that behaviour is.  This is of course a fallacy.  I read a quote from Rick Warren recently which I will now paraphrase as I can’t find it – People say that you can’t love someone if you disagree with them, this is absolute rubbish. You don’t need to agree with someone to have compassion.

I want to take this opportunity to also point out again that what we are talking about here is love, and if we are to stand against immoral or unjust behaviour we must always do it from a place of love and not from fear or hatred.  Our scripture reading tells us: Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” Jesus did all he did because of his love of God and his love of the people, he was not motivated by fear or hatred, and if we ever feel that we are acting out of any emotion other than love we must repent and turn or focus back to Christ. 

So there we have it, God is love and we are called to love others as he does.  Jesus loves all of us, even those who reject him.  He loved the Pharisees, and he loved Judas, Pontius Pilate and even the soldiers that nailed him to the cross.  What he didn’t do was agree with everything they did.  What I want you to remember as you go forward this week, is that we are to love one another, not just with the fuzzy warm feelings type of love that we see in the movies.  No –  we are to love one another as Jesus loves us – unconditional, never ending self sacrificial love that is honest, and does not run away when times are tough.  The kind of love that will not only give someone a hug when they are sad, but will rebuke them when they do wrong.  That is true love, and it is not for the faint of heart.

If you are interested in learning more about the love of God through Jesus Christ please use the Contact us form or leave a comment on this post.

Sunday 2nd December 2012 – Happy New Year!

The Word This Week:

Jeremiah  33:14-16

Psalm  25:1-10

1  Thessalonians 3:9-13

Luke  21:25-36

Thoughts on The Word:

Happy New Year! Today marks the beginning of the Chruchs’ liturgical year.  The beginnning of the season we call Advent is a time of anticipation, of expectation and excitement.  Excitement not only at the upcoming festivities of Christmas where we recall the first advent of our Lord, when he appeared among us as a baby, born to a virgin.  Excitement also as we anticipate the second advent of our Lord and saviour when he returns as a triumphant King!

Last week we saw imagery of this great King, and learnt about his Kingship and how we can be participants in the kingdom.  This week we see some more imagery of our triumphant King in our Gospel as Jesus foretells of his return with great power and glory.  However there is also a warning in this – the time of his return will see much fear, and foreboading.  You see the return of Christ will bring much joy for those of us who have accepted Him, but it will also bring a great realisation to all those who have rejected him of what they have done – and what now awaits them.

When Jesus returns, he will come in a position of judgement on creation, and those who have willingly and knowingly rejected him will need to give an account – so to will those of us who have accepted his offer of salvation.  The difference is when our list of transgressions are recounted before the throne of Judgement we can respond confidently to each charge ‘;guilty, but pardoned through the atoning work of my saviour’.  Sadly there are many who will not say those words or something similar… ther are literally billions of people on this planet who have not accepted the open invitation to forgiveness which is before them. 

During this time of Advent then, when we both remember the first coming and anticipate the second coming of our Lord, let us renew our own committment to be ambassadors of Christ to the world.   We are called to be beacons of the hope and love of Christ.  We are called to be proclaimers of the Gospel, through our words, and through our actions.  In this season of Advent then, as we have at the forefront of our minds both the joy we will feel, and the anguish and fear that awaits those who do not know our Lord at his second coming, let us examine ourselves and our lives to ensure we are beacons and ambassadors of Christ, let us “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly…”.  Let us also though re-commit ourselves to taking every opportunity given us to proclaim the Gospel, let us not be ashamed of it lest we cause one more person to come before our Lord at his second advent and hear the words “…You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the  devil and his angels…’ (Matthew 25:41 – NRSV)

May God richly bless you this week and throughout this ne Christian year.

Sunday 3rd June 2012 – Holy Trinity

The Word this Week:

Isaiah 6:1-8
Psalm 29

Romans 8:12-17

John 3:1-17

Thoughts on the word:

I have not had an opportunity to prepare a sermon for this week, due to having to write job applications among other things.  Please pray for us, that I might find stable employment.

Given that I haven’t prepared a sermon for the week, I have provided below a sermon by John Piper.  I certainly don’t agree with all he says, and he holds a very different theological position to me,  however he does a good job of explaining the role of the spirit in our reading from Romans today. Enjoy!

The Spirit- Led Are the Sons of God

April 14, 2002

Scripture: Romans 8: 13- 17

  “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

As we move from verse 13 to verses 14- 17, there is a new theme that becomes dominant, and it is one of the most precious themes in the Bible. The theme is our sonship — that Christians are children of God. Nowhere in the book of Romans up till now have we been called sons or children of God. But now the words come thick and heavy and full of freedom and joy and love and hope.

Verse 14: “All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Verse 15: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry,” Abba! Father! “Verse 16:” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. “Verse 17:” If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs of Christ… “

So a theme that had not turned up anywhere before in Romans is now mentioned in every verse of this unit. It’s clearly the new focus, and it’s something that we need to see and savor as part of our glorious salvation. What Paul is doing here is telling us Christians about ourselves and who we are and who God is in relation to us. And he is telling us how we can know this about ourselves and what it implies about our experience.

So let’s simply take this unit one verse at a time and see what Paul has to teach us about the Holy Spirit and our adoption as children of God. We will take three verses and save verse 17, with its emphasis on our inheritance as heirs, for next week as a kind of transition to the next paragraph.

” Killing Sin by the Spirit “Explained by” Being Led by the Spirit “

First then, verse 14. It is given by Paul as the ground or the basis of verse 13. We spent three weeks on verse 13,” If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. “Kill sin or it will be killing you. And we put a lot of emphasis on the words” by the Spirit. “” If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. “And you may remember I said at one point” by the Spirit “does not mean that the Spirit is a tool or a weapon that we wield. The Spirit is Person. We are in his hands, not he in ours! So killing sin” by the Spirit “means having a mindset through which the Holy Spirit works to free us from the power of sin. And that mindset is the mindset of faith in the blood- bought promises of God.

Now to confirm that we were on the right track when we said, the Spirit is not an instrument in our hands but we are an instrument in his hands, consider what Paul says in verse 14. He says,” For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. “The” for “means that he is giving the basis and explanation for verse 13. So” put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit “in verse 13 is explained by” led by the Spirit “in verse 14, and” you will live “in verse 13 is explained by” you are the sons of God “in verse 14. Ponder those two pairs with me for a moment.

” If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (14) Because all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. “Paul restates” putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit “with the words,” you are led by the Spirit. “So here is our confirmation that we were on the right track last week: Doing something” by the Spirit “means being” led “to do it by the Spirit. He is not an instrument in our hands. We are an instrument in his hands. We are not leading him. He is leading us. He is not a mere responder to us. We are being moved and led by him.

So then what is it to be led by the Spirit in verse 14 in view of its relation to verse 13? It is to be moved by the Spirit to kill sin by trusting in the superior worth of our Father’s love. When you fight sin by trusting in Christ as superior to what sin offers, you are being led by the Spirit. Don’t take this verse out of its context and make it mean mainly,” If I am led to the right college I am a child of God. “Or:” If I am led to the right spouse, I am a child of God. “Or:” If I am led to the right job, I am a child of God. “

There is a sense in which the children of God will lean on the Spirit for guidance in all those areas. But that is not the focus of this text. This text says, Kill sin by the Spirit, because” all who are [THUS] led by the Spirit are the sons of God. “In other words, the evidence that we are the children of God is that the Holy Spirit confirms his presence by leading us into war with our sin. The children of God hate sin. The children of God have the values and priorities and preferences and tastes of their Father. They are chips off the old block, as it were.

And the reason they share these traits of God their Father is because they have his Spirit who leads them this way. He gives them the new tastes and new preferences and the new values and the new pleasures and the new sadness. And so the evidence of our sonship is: Do we fight sin in our lives, or do we feel blasé about sin in our lives?

The Promise of Life Is Rooted in Our Being Sons of God

Now notice the way the other pair of ideas in verses 13 and 14 relate. The first pair is” killing sin by the Spirit “explained by” being led by the Spirit. “The second pair is” you will live “in verse 13 and” you are sons of God “in verse 14.” If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (14) For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. “What this shows is that the promise of life is rooted in our being sons of God.

You know that you have eternal life because you put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit. That’s verse 13. And you put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit because you are led by the Spirit. That’s the commandment between verses 13 and 14. And being led by the Spirit shows that you are a child of God. That’s verse 14. And so it is your status as a child of God that guarantees your eternal life. That’s the point of verse 17:” If children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. “Heirs of what? Everlasting life and all the glory it contains.

So what verse 14 does is explain killing sin by the Spirit in terms of being led by the Spirit, and it explains” you will live “in terms being sons of God. And then it makes being led by the Spirit the evidence and demonstration that we are the sons of God. Which means that killing sin by the Spirit is the evidence of our sonship and therefore the path to everlasting life.

And Paul means for you to enjoy this. He is telling us these things for our joy and our triumph over the adversities and fears of life. This becomes really plain in verse 15.

How Does the Spirit of God Relate to Our Sonship?

Verse 15 comes in now to explain more fully how the Spirit of God relates to our sonship. He says, (v. 14)” For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (15) For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ “He is answering the question: Why does the leading of the Spirit prove that you are a son of God? And he is answering the question: How does the Spirit lead?

The reason the leading of the Spirit proves we are children of God is that it is” the Spirit of adoption. “It is the Spirit given to us to confirm a legal transaction carried out by the Father, namely, adoption. Listen to what F. F. Bruce says about this term” adoption as sons “in the Roman world of Paul’s day:

“In the Roman world of the first century ad an adopted son was a son deliberately chosen by his adoptive father to perpetuate his name and inherit his estate; he was no whit inferior in status to a son born in the ordinary course of nature, and might well enjoy the father’s affection more fully and reproduce the father’s character more worthily.” (Quoted in John Stott, Romans, InterVarsity Press, 1994, p. 232)”

There are dozens of children and young people and adults in this church who have been legally adopted. You are all loved by your parents with a deep, true, unshakable love just as much or more than if you had been born into your family. And that is the way it is with God. This reality of adoption is a massive, firm, legal reality. And it is a deep, strong, full- hearted emotional reality.

When the Holy Spirit is called in verse 15 the “Spirit of adoption” the meaning is the Spirit confirms and makes real to you this great legal transaction of adoption. If you have trusted Christ as your Lord and Savior and Treasure, then you are adopted. John 1: 12, “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” If you receive Christ, you are adopted.

The Spirit Leads by Stirring Up Family Affection

Now to seal this and confirm it and make it experientially real to you, God sends the Spirit into our hearts. Here is the way Paul says it in Galatians 4: 5- 6, “[Christ] redeemed those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!'” The Spirit is poured out into our hearts to confirm and make real our adoption.

How does he do that according to verse 15? He does it by replacing the fear of a slave toward a master with the love of a son toward a father. “You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry,” Abba! Father! “He is contrasting the fear of a slave with the affection of a son. The work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to change our slavish fears toward God into confident, happy, peaceful affection for God as our father.

Now relate that to the leading of the Spirit in verse 14. This is the other question I said Paul is answering in verse 15: How does the Spirit lead?” All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. “How does he lead? How does he move us and enable us to put to death the deeds of the body — to kill sin? Answer:” For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons. “The Spirit does not lead by stirring up slavish fear. He leads by stirring up family affection. He does not get you to kill sin by making you a slave who acts out of fear. But by making you a son who acts out of faith and affection.

You can get a lot of external compliance with enslavement and fear. A Vietnamese man just told me last night that this was so. We asked if the people in Vietnam liked Communism. He said no, but then added,” They have the guns. “So if you have the guns you can enslave and create enough fear so that there is a lot of external compliance. But that is not what the Holy Spirit does to get us to kill sin.

How then does he shape our wills and lead us to put to death the deeds of the body? He does it by making real to us the truth of our adoption and the value of our Father in heaven. How does he do that? He does it by working in two directions: one by bringing God’s fatherly love to us, and the other by bringing our childlike affections for God.

The Spirit Leads by Bringing God’s Father Love to Us

We have already seen the first work of the Spirit in Romans 5: 5. Recall how Paul said,” Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. “This is a real, present experience, not just an idea or a future promise. It is something that happens in Christians: the love of God — that is, God’s love for his children — is poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. This is the Spirit of adoption making real to us the love of our Father. Applying it to us so that we know we are loved. It is an experience of divine love. That’s the first direction the Spirit works to make the truth of our acceptance and the value of our Father real to us. He pours out the love of the Father into our lives.

The Spirit Leads by Awakening Our Childlike Affections for God

The second direction that the Spirit works to lead us is by awakening our own childlike affections for our Father. This is what the last part of verse 15 and verse 16 are referring to.” You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ (16) The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. “

The Spirit brings about a response in our hearts to the love of God that cries out,” Abba! Father! “The witness of the Holy Spirit that you are a child of God is not a testimony to a neutral heart with no affection for God’s fatherly love so that your neutral heart can draw the logical conclusion that it is a child of God and then try to muster up some appropriate affections. That is not the picture. No. The witness of the Holy Spirit that you are a child of God is the creation in you of affections for God. The testimony of the Holy Spirit IS the cry,” Abba! Father! “

And the reason Paul uses the word” cry “and the Aramaic word” Abba “is because both of them point to deep, affectionate, personal, authentic experience of God’s fatherly love. He didn’t say that the testimony of the Spirit was that we affirm doctrinally that God is father. The devil knows that doctrine. Doctrinal affirmations, as important as they are, don’t make children. What he said was that the testimony of the Spirit that we are God’s children is that from our hearts there rises an irrepressible cry — a cry, not a mere statement, a cry:” Abba! Father! “

We don’t infer logically the fatherhood of God from the testimony of the Spirit. We enjoy emotionally the Fatherhood of God by the testimony of the Spirit. The testimony of the Spirit is not a premise from which we deduce that we are children of God; it is a power by which we delight in being the children of God.

Don’t Wait for a Whisper — Look to Jesus!

If you want to know that you are a child of God, you don’t put your ear to the Holy Spirit and wait for a whisper; put your ear to the gospel and your eye to the cross of Christ and you pray that the Holy Spirit would enable you to see it and savor it for what it really is. Romans 5: 8,” God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. “

The testimony of the Spirit is that when we look at cross we cry,” Jesus, you are my Lord! “(1 Corinthians 12: 3), and” God, you are my Father! “So look to Christ! Look to Christ!

Sunday 2nd September 2012 – Receive the Gift!


Daniel and Chhaya Horsburgh

The Word This Week:

Thoughts on the Word:

This week we have a special guest writer – Daniel Horsburgh, who with his wife and five children has followed the call of God to India.  You can read more about Daniel and his family, and support them in their work in response to God’s call HERE and also at the bottom of this week’s sermon.

 Receiving vs Having been given

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17 ESV)

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:20-22 ESV)

Two hungry people can be given a piece of fruit each, yet one grasps it in their hand and eats, nourishing their bodies in that moment, yet the other let’s it fall to the ground, rendering the gift useless to them as they leave it to rot in the dirt.

Much the same is the wonderful word of God!  As James exhorts we can receive with meekness the ‘implanted word’ that has the power to save our souls, or let the words we read and hear fall to the ground, going to waste during the season of our lives for which they were given.

For the latter of the examples we observe someone who is either very rude and ungrateful for what was given or on the other hand totally ignorant to the fact that the gift of food was indeed a gift and was meant for them.  The giver of the gift is rejected regardless of their motive or ignorance.

For the fruit that falls on the ground, we can imagine it is mistreated, kicked, distorted or squashed, eventually rotting so that in any case the fruit is seen and understood as bad, distasteful, rotten and smelly.  It is out of place, treated accordingly with the rest of its environment, it is totally out of its intended context.

Yet the fruit in the case of the first person was used, appreciated and accepted within the context of food, for that is what fruit is.  It is purposed to nourish and bring life to the eater and which it does.  

As we see both people were given fruit but only one received it.  As we turn to the scriptures we ask the Lord Jesus for grace to open the hands of our spirit and receive what he is giving us through His Word that the Holy Spirit may open our eyes to receive with thanksgiving this life giving gift.

Jesus speaks to the Pharisees and religious leaders in Mark 7 discussing the Law Moses handed down to God’s people Israel.  The Pharisees like our second person receiving fruit have been given the life giving word of God.  they know full well the scriptures from the Torah, the law and it’s requirement, yet familiarity has led to contempt and they are unable to receive the law as a gift unto the salvation of their souls, but have treated it as a list of religious acts by which to measure their self righteousness.

The gift, having been given but used out of context of its original purpose becomes distorted, miscommunicated – taken out of the context of being a ‘good and perfect gift’ being able to save their souls. Instead the rotting process happens and what has been stored in their hearts as word of God becomes corrupted, diseased and poisonous.  

The laws regarding cleanliness in Mark 7 were given as a gift to the Jewish people to protect them from disease and bring life, also being a worship to God in their everyday lives.  Yet perverted by context and the purpose for its use the word spoken had become rotten, desiring death, as a worship of man’s self righteousness not God’s righteousness.

Taking the word of God for a purpose other than God’s desire is exactly the same thing the devil did as he tempted Jesus in the desert. The words spoken by the devil were for a purpose to see that he was worshiped not God.  This sounds extreme, but what do we do with the word of the Lord for our lives? Do we engineer it’s context for our own ends or do we let the Holy spirit lead us into all truth understanding it for the purpose for which it was sent.

I am not talking here of using the word of God in sermons, no much deeper than that.  When we as stewards of His beautiful words, read the bible and hear The Holy Spirit speak to our hearts, what do we do with those words, do we interpret it the way that suits our conscience, comfort or circumstance, or do we seek the Holy Spirit to lead us into the revelation for which the words were given to us.

Here as people being given the word of God we can receive it or reject it.  Receiving the word of God is always an active event, it requires relationship with the ‘Father of lights’, it requires thoughts submitted in meekness to the Holy Spirit who will always align us with Jesus Christ the cornerstone of our faith.  Constantly we must stay in remembrance that we are subject to the word of God, not the word of God being subject to us. It requires acknowledgement of the gift and ‘eating’, if you will, the words of life that they would bring nourishment to our souls.

Alternatively, rejection of the word of God is incredibly passive as much as it is active.  We can ignore the scriptures or overtly, out and out reject the opportunity to receive life and nourishment.  Either way the gift of the word of God is rejected.

It is an invitation at each hearing to delve further into relationship with our Heavenly Father. For it is in relationship that obedience compliments love. I don’t believe that Jesus merely just obeyed His Father, rather I believe He loved Him, and from this love He desired to obey what was shown Him.

As we return to the Pharisees we can see that Jesus criticism of them was not merely because they observed the Law but rather that they observed the law in the absence of personal relationship. Within relationship is the expression of love. All obedience springing from love will bring life.

In this context lets then re-read James 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.


“Holy Spirit guide us into all truth. We humble ourselves before the mighty word of God may you empower it in our lives as we worship our Lord Jesus. Lead us into greater love and joyful obedience!”

About Danial and Chhaya

Daniel and Chhaya Horsburgh are a family living in Rajpur, North India.  They have 5 children, Deklin, Monika, Mohini, Natarnia and Amiya.

As a family they are called to love India, bringing family to those without.  Daniel works with a company building custom made guitars, training and discipling rehabilitated drug addicts to build guitars, worship God and start life anew.

Chhaya runs a business, making and exporting clothing for western markets providing well paid jobs for individuals and families in need.

Apart from these roles Daniel and Chhaya are social leaders providing pastoral love and care to those within their community.  Also Daniel as a worship leader is studying with Sounds of the Nations to write worship songs in some of the local languages.

As a family they have self funded their venture to live in India and always welcome much needed financial aide.  Please pray for this family and also for how you might support their work here in India.

Email address:

Donate – If you can help the Horsburgh family financially in their work to serve the people of India and God then please consider doing so by clicking HERE

Tidying the Temple.

Ok, so it turns out that I’m not a “preachy” blogger.  I’m not really surprised.  I don’t feel called to any sort of ministry where this would be the case.  Silly me thought if I were writing it, rather than saying it, it might be different.  Turns out, NO!  I even have three blogs sitting in drafts.  Well, it’s really the same post written 3 different ways, none of which I’m happy with.  So let me sum up what I was trying to say in three words…Trust in God.  There, done! Now, let me talk to you about something I can write about, caring for your family!  Specifically, nutrition.  I’m going to take several posts to talk about this, as it was quite a journey of discovery for me, and I’d like to give each stage the attention it deserves.

In October last year, I became aware that there are some things in our standard foods that we just shouldn’t eat.  I began removing “sugar” from our diet, specifically fructose (unless it was in it’s natural form, like in a piece of fruit).  There were many great results to this change.  The first, and my main motivation, was weight loss.  I lost 5kg in about 5 weeks, despite switching to full fat milk and real butter.  This was my kind of way of eating!  The trouble was that I didn’t lose any more, and I had plenty more to lose!  More investigation was required, and there will be more on that next time

The second benefit was that our children were slightly less out of control.  Oh, I’m kind of kidding on that last one, sort of.  We have beautiful children, though Mr 4 can be a challenge.  I think a lot of that is just being a 4 year old boy, but we can certainly notice a difference in him when he’s had access to more sugar than normal.  Miss 5 can now monitor her own sugar intake and doesn’t go nuts at birthday parties any more.  She had a run of 3 parties in 3 weeks.  The first week I talked to her about having some control, but the lure of the lollies were just too much and she had her fill, followed by a sore tummy and a resolve not to do it again.  Since then she’s paced herself, alternated sweet & savoury foods & shared her loot bag with the family.  I’m very proud of her! 

Oh, we save a bucket load on tomato sauce now!  In our sugar filled days the kids would ask for sauce with everything, and the initial amount of sauce given would never last the meal.  Now sauce is an optional extra, even if it is the sugar filled kind!! 

If you’d like to learn more about fructose and it’s effect on your body, I recommend you read Sweet Poison, by David Gillespie.  He goes into the effects of fructose in your body, which is way more than behavioural or weight related benefits.  Sugar does a lot of damage you can’t see until it’s too late.  It’s not a hard read at all, and even if you don’t like everything he says, it’s hard to ignore the evidence! Scripture is clear that we’re to treat our bodies as temples.  This should go beyond thinking about how we use or misuse our bodies, or whether or not this means we shouldn’t get a tattoo, it should start with what we put IN our bodies.

Have you tried to give up sugar before?