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WHO CARES?

During the time of Caesar Nero (54 - 68 AD) he would use Christians as living night torches by impaling them then dousing them in pitch then lighting them The world into which the Saviour of mankind entered as a baby was a very harsh place. Life was cheap. Might was right. The oppressed were abused and often mistreated by the Roman conquerors. Those expected to speak up for, and defend, the voiceless vulnerable — their religious leaders of the day — had become too easily corrupted in their pathetic attempts to win a crumb of their conqueror’s power. This corruption in the pursuit of financial gain and political leverage had blinded these supposed-to-be-shepherds to the true plight of those they should have served as guardians. Why on earth would God send His Son into our world at such a dark time?

¶ But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent His Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that He might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law.
Galatians 4:4 THE MESSAGE

WHERE IS THE GOD WHO CARES?

A depiction of Christian about to be martyred in the ColosseumIn what would have to be the greatest reply to the oft asked question – what has the all-powerful, all-good God done about evil and suffering in the world? – God the Eternal Father sent His Eternal Son into this world of evil and suffering as a zygote (the earliest stage of human development) as His answer. In one of Dr. F.W. Boreham’s essays on this topic he pointed out how often it has been throughout history that just at the darkest hours in human history, a baby has been sovereignly born who would grow into a courageous leader who would be a further divine reply to the question about what has done about evil and suffering in the world. The greatest example of this of course is the Christmas Child. At just the precise time of one of earth’s darkest hours, the Christ was born. Little wonder then that Dr. Boreham could say that God’s answer to the world’s problems is always a baby. And the baby that God the Father sent to the world was the One who created it and everything in it (Col. 1:17-18). Did He come reluctantly? Did He come in the same way that the mythological Greco-Roman members of the pantheon of gods would come feeling rather indifferent to the injustices besetting the world? Let the written Word of God be our answer-

When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them,
because they were harassed and helpless,
like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9:36

DOES JESUS?

Christ was moved with compassion for people. He felt their pain and saw their suffering. Did Jesus care? Asking this question sound utterly ridiculous even before I get the question mark! There is no doubt that Jesus cared. He demonstrated care for outcasts — such as lepers who shunned by society — but He didn’t care for them because they were a marginalised group or even because they were lepers. He cared for them because they were people created in the image of God. Jesus cared for the poor – but not because they were poor – but because they were people created in the image of God. Jesus cared for women – but not because they were women – but because they were people created in the image of God. And the same can be said of His care for those people with a different skin colour to His (which almost certainly was not ‘white’), or for those people of different ethnicity who could barely speak the language of the Hebrews without a tell-tale accent that brought scorn and even hatred among Israelites. He cared for these people despite these things because they too were created in the image of God. This reveals that Christ treated all people as sharing a common and unique bond: all people are created in the image of God and this common bond and shared privilege binds us each together as the ‘human race’ thus making all alternate adjectives of the word “race” superfluous and counter-productive to a biblical understanding of what it means to be human. Our initial question, who cares? is now forced to be adjusted to: Who should care? And the answer is immediately obvious. We should because we are the family of the divine image bearers. We are family.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”
has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge
of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Second Corinthians 4:6

 

BUT WHO CARES?

Those who know Christ! To worship is to adore, to behold, to praise, to reflect upon and reflect. Thus, we become like whatever we worship. When we reflect on Christ we marvel at His care for each individual in a crowd where each one probably thought that no-one saw them in the midst of a sea of faces – but Jesus did. They may have thought that when Jesus looked at the crowd He couldn’t have noticed them but He did. As they blended into the masses of people that often flocked to Christ they may have felt that non-one cared for them – but Jesus did. Consider how often Jesus spent time with one person: the woman at the well (John 4); Nicodemus the Scribe (John 3); the man at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5); the women condemned as an adulteress (John 8); the man born blind (John 9); Lazarus (John 11); and Pilate (John 19).  

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.
For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Second Corinthians 3:18`

Time and time again throughout the gospels we see Jesus taking time out for the individual – a woman with the issue of blood, the Syrophoenician woman with a demonise daughter, a blind man on the side of the road. Jesus’ care for people is a remarkable insight into the Father’s care for each member of His earthly family of divine image bearers. And just as Jesus conveyed the Father’s heart of care for each person, we too are called to also convey it (Luke 10:25-37).
 

 

Your Pastor,

Andrew

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THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.