Thursday, 23 December 2010

Do you believe Jesus is God?

"The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?”
Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me.  Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.  Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him."
Luke 7:15-18

Jesus basically says that if you're questioning his teaching then ask God, if you honestly ask God he will let you know that Jesus' teaching is real.

Jesus taught that he and God are one.   So God will tell you - or show you - that Jesus is God.

There's no way to explain that, but I ask you this Christmas time, if you don't believe in God, or if you believe in God but think Christianity with this Jesus guy is a bit far fetched... honestly open yourselves up to asking God if he is real - and if Jesus is the key part of him.  Because if you do then I know God will show you Jesus is Lord.

Contact me if you want to ask anymore questions, but first, ask God (that's the start of doing his will) and you will find out that Jesus' teaching comes from God.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Power of the meaning of Christmas

From Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears' Doctrine - Page 220-221.
The incarnation of Jesus Christ [God becoming human] is recorded in detail in the first two chapters of both Matthew's and Luke's Gospels.  There we read that the angel Gabriel was sent as a messenger from God to the town of Nazareth to a young virgin named Mary who was betrothed to a man named Joseph.  The angel announced:

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." 
And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" 
And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

Further, the Bible reveals the birth of Jesus as the pattern for our new birth - both are miracles of God the Holy Spirit to be received by faith.  Belief in Jesus' incarnation is an essential truth that Christians have always held...

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I think Driscoll points our the key point that we are not merely celebrating a time of the year to spread good cheer, to buy people presents and to sing some cutsie-wootsie songs.  But we are recognising a significant time where God stepped into the human world as a human!  This was the beginning of God's redemptive act.   And in doing so he showed us the way in which we will be saved by being born of the Spirit.

Very Cool - Merry Christmas

Flash Mob sing the Hallelujah Chorus in a random shopping mall.


Sunday, 19 December 2010

Carols in the Park

As I've mentioned in a previous post, we set up in drizzling rain all day for our carols service, but here's a photo from just before we actually kicked off that highlights God's amazing work that day


Look at that sky... it wasn't just blue, it was the most beautiful sunset I'd seen all year!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Quote from John Stott

"The church has a double responsibility in relation to the world around us. On the one hand we are to live, serve and witness in the world. On the other hand we are to avoid being contaminated by the world. So we are neither to seek to preserve our holiness by escaping from the world nor to sacrifice our holiness by conforming to the world."

It is these paradoxes that make the Christian life so exciting, yet challenging.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Front Yard Blitz!

My landlord is also my good mate, he only moved out a few weeks back so I thought I'd give him his Christmas present early.

I know Ben won't see his front yard as often as we will now that he's moved out, but I'm sure he'll be stoked with the gardening I did today.  3 1/2 hours work, 1 dead snake and a lot of thorn scratches later and she's all done!

BEFORE

AFTER

Trusting in the Eldership

We have a great group of Elders at City North Baptist Church.  I have grown to respect and come to a better understanding of their biblical styled leadership.

This weekend really highlighted it for me.  Our annual carols service was being held in a local park and the Eldership team had the task of prayerfully considering the situation 24 hours prior to the event and making a decision whether or not to set up all the equipment outside.

They had prayed and consulted weather sites, before deciding to go ahead with the planned outdoor carols service.  Literally minutes after hearing of their decision rain descended on my little house and continued all through the night.

Sunday morning came and the rain continued.  It drizzled the entire time we were setting up in the park and things were getting mighty muddy.  I was praying all day, seeking God's will, wondering if he was telling us to move the event indoors, or not do the event at all.  But the thing I kept coming back to was that the Elders had prayed and felt led to continue outdoors, so their faith should strengthen my faith to believe we were fulfilling God's will.  

Not only was I trusting in God, but I was trusting in the Eldership to successfully seek God's will.

I'll admit my faith wavered towards the end, as we were doing final set up it was so wet.  But just as I felt myself becoming depressed about the potential outcome blue sky broke across the horizon and within minutes the clouds had evaporated.  

The carols night was amazing, we were blessed with the most incredible sunset, and there was no rain for the entire event.  About 400 people came out to sing carols and hear the Gospel proclaimed, a lot of those not from City North.  God certainly blessed the time and the event.

And showed me to stand firm in my trust of both him and the Eldership of my Church.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

From the Church Bulletin

I thought Ps Murray's welcome message in the City North bulletin last week was great.  Hopefully he doesn't mind me sharing it.

The Christian life calls us to active cooperation with and obedience to God's commands in the Bible.  As we mediate on God's Word, the Holy Spirit applies that Word to our hearts, and we learn how to live lives that are pleasing to the Lord.  Philippians 4:8 is one very practical verse that urges us on. "Finally, brothers, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."


AW Tozer put the challenge this way:

  • What do you want the most?
  • What do you think about the most?
  • How do you use your money?
  • What do you do with your leisure time?
  • What company do you enjoy?
  • Who and what do you admire?
  • What do you laugh at?



Why not take some time out this week and do some meditating.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Aussie Christmas Carol - "Sweatn' in a Sizzling Summer-land"

Ha - great video from my mates Scat Jazz... they released their Christmas Album a few years back, but this video is new.

Very clever, very funny boys :-)

Friday, 3 December 2010

Babysitting the Boy

My Mother and sister decided that today was a good day to go shopping for dresses for my brother's upcoming wedding.  They came in from Ipswich to shop at Chermside, so lucky me got to spend almost 2 hours with my 14 month old nephew roaming the toy departments and pet stores throughout the shopping centre.

It was a lot of fun, Nathanael and I had a great time checking out all the toy cars (broom brooms), tonka trucks (ucks) and numerous stuffed dogs and real puppies (oof offs).  We even sat in the food court and shared a pack of sultanas!

The highlight though was definitely the 20 minutes Nathanael spend driving the school bus.  It was great, he was happy even without having to put in any money to make the thing move.  That plus a big red balloon made it a pretty awesome day spent with Uncle Dean.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Internet Safety Tips

Over on the City North Baptist website we've thrown up some tips for making your home Internet browsing safe for the whole family.

Check it out, there are some great tools available.

http://www.citynorthbaptist.com/pastors-blog/some-tips-for-wise-internet-use

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

All things are better in Koine

Ahhh can't wait to get back into my Greek next year - signed up for John exegesis in Greek. Maybe we should make something like this for Malyon!?!?!?

Sunday, 28 November 2010

We are the Salt of the Earth.

As Christians are we really doing enough to be that good influence on the world, so that they may see Jesus?   Salt is used to add flavour to food, to make it good.  Is the Church acting in that way in Australia?  I think City North is doing a good job, but there is always more that can be done.  What are some ways we can improve as a whole across Australia?

Matt 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet..."

I like this Peanuts cartoon, it's obviously an over exaggeration, but I wonder if the Church was a better influence then would the World be in a different situation?

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Chris Poulsen Trio - epic jazz!

Here's my mate Chris' band, sit back and enjoy some sweet jazz... the drum solo at the end is smoking!!!


Friday, 26 November 2010

Friday Reflection: God's Love

"Ever have one of those moments when you're totally washed with the love of God? Suddenly you are overwhelmingly aware of how much God loves you, how simple, yet deep and everlasting, that love is. You can be leading a hectic life, worrying about so many things, even dwelling on matters of faith when all of that is pushed aside as God turns up just to tell you He loves you.... and that's really all that matters."

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That's a segment of a post I wrote in April 2008 (full post here) and I continue to find myself again and again completely knocked over by the fact God loves me.  The simplicity of it carries such a complexity when you understand how the holiness and justness of God meet together with his love.   I still lack so much understanding, but feel completely within the love of God, knowing I am his!

You can read about a specific time I was completely blown away by this in the original post, but in reflecting today I just wanted to mention that you can be completely drowned in God's love today, wherever you are.  You don't need a special prayer, or ritual. You don't have to be going to church, or doing good deeds.  Stop where you are right now and ask God to show you his love.  You will be amazed.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say Rejoice!

Sometimes I wonder if we focus too much on our sinfulness at Church.

I know it's important, and I know that we are totally depraved and that is what makes God's grace so unbelievably amazing.  I also know that it's only in recognising that we can't live up to God's expectation that is the starting point to understanding why Jesus had to die and accepting his gift and his rule as Lord of our lives.

All that is very important.  But there is another aspect - and that is the joy that now comes from being saved; realising that we are free, that we have a place as the heirs of God and can live in joy no matter the circumstance.

Not so many of our praise and worship songs focus on this I don't think... and those that do are often overlooked for something powerful that reminds us of our sin and the grace of God.  I think it's the one this I really miss from my time in Africa, just that unashamed joy in living in Christ - I think we need to find more of a balance in our services today!

Caring that people are going to Hell...

‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels...' (Matt 25:41)

When we look out and see the majority of people in our world today do we get a pang of sadness that they are disconnected from God?   I think sometimes we find ourselves distancing the severity of eternity from our daily lives because when we live in our 'Christian bubble' we can focus only on the heaven side of it.

The people I've spent my week with so far have reminded me how much I care that people go to heaven, or more importantly that they are with Christ because they've been justified by his act on the cross.   It's a real situation people find themselves in, not simply a problem for 'other people'.

I was also travelling home yesterday when I witnessed the outcome of a fatal car accident I specifically faced the finality of death and the immanence of either eternity with or without God.  I drove by only minutes after the accident, just as ambulance and police were arriving on the scene.  The finality of that moment for that poor man was very sobering.  I don't know if he was a believer or not, but I found myself hoping he was.  It then made me wonder, how many times do we see unbelievers as the enemy?  In this case I realised that when people die it would be better if they were a Christian (since their eternity is secured), but we feel a significant tie with other Christians so sometimes hope that it wasn't, because of the pain the church would feel.  Yet in every case an unbeliever dieing is so much more tragic.

My thoughts are a bit muddled at the moment, but I hope you at least get what I'm trying to say.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Out of Touch.

I went to visit my grandparents this week in Hervey Bay.  I was actually looking forward to a couple of hours during the days to sit down at the Hervey Bay McDonald's and write some blog posts.  Unfortunately they were undergoing some renovations and their wireless capacity had been halved... which meant it was actually quicker to simply check my Facebook on my mobile than log onto the WIFI with my laptop.  Blogging was out of the network's league.

Hopefully I'll write some stuff up over the next couple of days now I'm home, but it's been a lean week on My Jarrol Spot.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Friday Reflection: Thinking about Fingers

I've already mentioned that I hurt my little finger on my left hand playing Volleyball at Youth Group last Friday.  This reminded me of a post I made in September 2005 (see here) just after I'd broken the little finger on my right hand.  It gave me a bit of an insight of just how important some of the 'lesser' parts of the body are, that when they hurt or become unusable everything else suffers.  Needless to say I've been reminded of that again this week - here's that post...

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I've had many people show so much sympathy for the pain I've been in, and though I am grateful for that, it is slightly embarrassing for me. I mean it's my little finger!! Usually you would wonder what effect a little finger could have on the entire body. But once you take it out, make it useless, you suddenly realise how much you use it everyday. A small part of the body, but when it's not working, it effects the whole body.

1 Corinthians 12:14-27 - Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

So I'm wondering if even you feel like the pinkie of your church, then you are still part of the body, and like my broken finger, if you are not doing your job correctly, then the whole body feels the effect.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Is it wrong to laugh out loud in an exam?

It's kinda hard not to when there are questions like this...


Q - Across history, Church teachings have...
(a) understood the proper use of the concept of 'satisfaction' when explaining the cross
(b) sometimes applied the idea of satisfaction to the wrong people/creature
(c) never utilised the idea of satisfaction when explaining the cross
(d) been the basis of Mick Jagger's song "I can't get no..."

Why did Jesus have to die?

John Stott, in his book The Cross of Christ, describes the need for salvation (and thus the need for Jesus to have died on the cross) by presenting four things Christ did through his actions on the cross.

 Firstly Christ died for us (Rom 5:8), he undertook it for our sake, not his own.

Secondly Christ died for us that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). This shows the beneficial function and outcome of the cross, that humankind might be reconciled with God.

The third notion, Christ died for our sins (1 Cor 15:3), shows that there was a distinct obstacle blocking our reconciliation with God.

Something had to be done to remove that obstacle before reconciliation could take place, which alludes to the fourth action of Jesus, that in dyeing for sins Christ died our death (Rom 5:18-19).

These four actions of Jesus – achieved on the cross – define the necessary requirement of salvation for humankind. They show that humankind is totally depraved and in desperate need of forgiveness and also that the law of God had to be satisfied because of God’s holiness and righteousness.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Holidays Begin!

I handed the last of my Field Ed. reports yesterday and had a meeting with the Registrar this morning to determine what college will look like next year... and now... I'm on holidays :-)

We've set up the table tennis table outside, and not even a seriously bunged up little finger can stop me getting in this holiday vibe.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Ministry Action - Personal Devotion

1. Background Information
In an attempt to reinvigorate my personal devotion time as I headed into the busy period of college assignments and exams I decided to create a Sabbath type time out mid week and have a time of Bible study and prayer. I endeavoured to find somewhere away from my home and all its distractions so that I could find new and fresh ways to have my devotional time.

2. Reporting the Ministry Action
I found a small café at Sandgate which allowed me to sit by myself and not have to worry about many distractions. It was a Thursday morning so the café was quiet and I was able to dedicate a good thirty minutes to reading through the book of Jude and highlighting and underlining the passages using the method Ps Murray taught me that he uses for personal devotions. By studying a whole book (even a small one) I was able to get a whole lot more out of the Bible study time of my devotion.

I had been really struggling to spend a lot of time in prayer during my quiet time and had been thinking about how I could find a more personal and constructing way of praying. I had a simple idea to send a text message to most of the people in the contact list of my mobile phone asking a simple question. “How can I pray for you today?” Minutes after sending the message out I had almost 10 replies from friends, with very basic – usually single point – prayer requests. I felt connected with my friends, knowing what they were dealing with for that day and I was able to firstly praise God for my relationship with Him, and the friendships I had, before going through and praying for my friends immediate needs. As I was praying more reply messages came in and I continued to reflect on them and pray. By the time I had finished my prayer time – 45 minutes later – I had received 25 replies from friends, all with different pray or praise points.

Throughout the rest of the day I continued to receive messages. All in all 36 people responded, and I felt I was having a day-long devotion time. At the end of the day I contacted everyone who had replied and followed up on how things had went – this time their replies showed me that there had been almost immediate answers to prayer in some cases. It was an incredibly uplifting time.

3. Personal Reflection
I was incredibly encouraged that friends, both from City North and elsewhere, were willing to share a personal prayer point with me on their Thursday morning. I was also quite amazed at how such a simple idea and action completely revitalised my personal devotion time.

I think having relevant, personal points to pray about made my prayer time feel more real. I have a passion for my friends and so when I knew their needs I could see how my prayers were important so gave me a passionate motivation to pray. God taught me that our personal devotion time isn’t simply a ritual we should complete so we can call ourselves Christians, but a time of real connection with Him, revolving around the things that we find important, because God is intimately involved in our lives.

By contacting people that evening and seeing how their days had panned out God blessed me by showing me how He works through prayer. People who had potentially traumatic meetings ended up having more encouraging times, others who were unwell were feeling better, and most people replied about how encouraged they were that someone had been intentionally praying for them that day.

4. Theological Reflection
Matthew 6:5-8 “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 others. Truly I tell you, 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. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him…”

I know I was in public and not in my room, but I had found somewhere out of the way where no one would notice me. I had come to God humbly and I believe that the text message and replies really assisted me in not ‘babbling like pagans’ because my prayers were much more pointed and focused. God showed me that He truly does know what we need before we ask, because one of my prayers was to have a more intimate prayer time, which he provided.

5. Personal Future
I think sending out that text week in week out would ruin the impact of it. However by adding all those points to my journal I was able to continue praying and following up. This has continued to enrich my personal devotion times. Maybe in a month or so I will send another message and see what happens.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Yet again....

Some people say I'm accident prone... but I don't really want to go that far.   I think whatever I'm doing I put in a 110% effort, and that sometimes leads to things my body can't handle... or because I've had previous injuries some of my joints just aren't very strong anymore.

However, last night's little incident was just plain weird.   We were playing beach volleyball as a Youth Group activity, we'd hired out these courts and were having a fun time playing.   It was girls verse boys, and I had a bunch of grade 8 and 9 boys who were really getting the hang of the game.

Somehow on one attempt to hit the ball I got my little finger on my left hand caught in the net, And just the force of pulling it out or something I think I've broken the little fella.

It looks like a fat little sausage, the pain is quite immense, but I know there's not much u can do but ice it and strap it so I'm just putting up with it.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Friday Reflection: Leading in Prayer

The original post from 1st October 2007 is a part of a series a few of us bloggers were doing called 'Thumbs Up'.  It was an opportunity to break the stereotypical style of critical blogging and post something positive about someone we had encountered during the week.   My post was about a man from my church who led us in corporate prayer.  I was encouraged by the way he didn't simply pray himself, but mentioned each prayer point and then gave the congregation a chance to pray themselves in silence.  Individual prayer became corporate prayer as we sat there and prayed unitedly for the one thing.

Now I'm sure there were some cop outs who just had a snooze, but I think this was a more interactive time than simply having someone up the front praying aloud.  Here's a snippit of that blog post

Instead of just praying through the prayer requests, Ian mentions each one and gives time for everyone to pray individually. Though it's not spoken allowed I think this creates such a real situation of 'corporate' prayer, because instead of just listening along, suddenly the responsibility to pray is on the individual, and if the responsibility is taken up, then the entire church is corporatly praying for the issue.

How do you think corporate prayer works?  When I was in Africa everyone prayed aloud at the same time - very crazy and overbearing, but emotionally powerful.  I think Ian's method was better in a Western setting... what do you think?

Busy Week

Sometimes you just look back and wonder where that week went.  Last weekend I had a busy time catching up with friends who over the past few weeks I've neglected as I've had my head down in assignments.  Monday was a bit of the same, but more far afield.  I headed down the coast and caught up with some people I haven't seen in ages.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent studying for my exam on Thursday, and after that we had a college break up lunch and then one of the girls had a BBQ dinner for her birthday.   In the middle of the BBQ I had to run off to a music practice for the Christmas carols City North are doing in a few weeks.   All in all a week that flashed by very quick - and I look back knowing all those activities don't equate to the amount of hours in a whole week, but I just seem to have misplaced the rest of them...  crazy that!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Friday Reflection: Free Gift

March 2009 - we'd all just received a free $900 from the Government and were wondering what to do with the extra cash.  That kind notion of Mr Rudd caused me to think a little about what a 'free gift' is... and how much greater God's free gift really is.... Original Post right here...

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Time and time again I am reminded how good a free gift is.

But the thing that knocks me on the head when I really think about it is the times we receive a free gift when we really don't deserve it... not like 'we've done nothing to deserve this'... but more like "we've done some rotten stuff that deserves the opposite of this".

I mean Mr Rudd's $900 payout is nice... I've done nothing to deserve it, but I've also done nothing not to deserve it.

What I find so overwhelming is that even though I am a terrible person, my thoughts and actions let me down so often, and if people knew what I was really like I'd be feeling much more lonely I'm sure... but even with me being a total lost cause (which I admit that I am), God still offers me his salvation, through the grace of Jesus Christ.

I've just finished an assignment on Exodus 19:3-6 where God says to Israel... "Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." And a few chapters later we see the Israelites making a golden calf and worshipping it as soon as Moses' back is turned.

Gee I'm like that... God shows me his promises, and I say "Yep I'm in, I'll follow you" and no sooner have I turned around than I'm doing something dumb and sinful.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourself, it is a gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
~ Ephesians 2:8-10

I still haven't fully come to terms with that amazing grace offered by Jesus. God knows I can't do any of this myself, he knows I can't keep his laws - God knew that when he made his covenant with the Israelites, that they wouldn't be able to keep his law, I mean he didn't wipe them out because of the golden calf did he... So Jesus' grace is complete, no matter how bad you are, how bad you keep being or how soon you stuff up after accepting the gift.

That's the key, we need to accept the gift of grace, we have been created by God, God loves us - and because of that Jesus came and paid the penalty for all the crap I do. All I have to do is accept Jesus - sounds easy right?? - and all he asks in return is our life.

When you think about that it is easy... my life is gonna be worth nothing without the grace of Jesus, so giving my life to him isn't that big a thing.

I'm just glad that he takes such a screwed up life... and even when I keep damaging it, he's still got it and is working in me to turn it into a reflection of himself.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Question: Please Answer

What would it mean if someone substituted themselves for you?

How would you relate to that person from then on?

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Who do you belong to?

Interesting question... is it just one person?  Is it maybe a thing?

Just something to ponder....

Friday, 29 October 2010

Friday Reflection: Jesus is Real

Looking back to January 2007 today - I was in a bit of a transition point in life.  I was still serving at Whitehill but spending more and more time at City North.  I was still living in Ipswich but beginning the search for a place in Brisbane.

With the end of the college semester coming up this was a good post to look back and reflect on.  Sometimes in all the academia of Bible College it is easy to forget the simple, relational Jesus who is very real and really wanting to communicate.  So have a read and reflect on the notion that Jesus is really real... let me know what thoughts come to mind.

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Last night Whitehill had a dvd service which I wasn't too keen about so took the opportunity to go and visit my friends over at City North Baptist in Kedron.

I always enjoy visiting City North, not only are heaps of my WEC co-horts there, but the services always feel so fresh and communicative (maybe it's cause I'm just visiting??). I always get an awesome sense of God's presence there, and enjoy their humbling and honest praise times, and good Biblical Message from the two pastors.

Last night was no different, but half way through the service, when Pastor Stewart was giving a small communion talk I suddenly realised something I think I'd been slowly forgetting.

Jesus is real!

Yes that's right, I suddenly had this amazing awareness that Jesus Christ is a real living person, right here in 2007. It seems pretty obvious doesn't it? Like I'm a Bible believing Christian who's forgotten Jesus is real... um that sounds pretty lame. Well in a way it is, and in a way it's a disturbing thought that I could even start to forget that - but I also think there are many other Christians out there doing the exact same thing.

I think I was just getting in the habbit of going with the flow. I was doing the church thing, I was even doing my daily Bible readings and prayer times - but I think I was doing it almost like a robot, just going through pre-planned motions, set before me by a traditionalistic and ritual environment I've allowed myself to live in.

Maybe it's the fact that I've spent so much time at Whitehill, serving, playing drums, leading the youth group, going to Bible studies, sitting in virtually the same row every service... I don't really know what it is...

But on Sunday, as Paster Stewart spoke on the simplistic truths of what being a Christian and partaking in communion is, I suddenly realised I'd been pushing, that personal, relational, communicative side of my 'Christian' life away and just gliding along in a self-centred, ignorant tradition.

He then went on and gave his message from Matthew 28:16-20 (aka the Great Commission) and the simplest of concepts blew my mind.

- Jesus really did live - it's not some story or fable, it happened... Jesus really did walk on water, he really did take some mud, stick it in a blind man's eyes and give him sight - he really did accept the blame for my sins and stuff ups and take the punishmet on a disgustingly cruel cross, and he did rise again, conquor death and return to heaven giving us a command to go into all the world making disciples and baptising them into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - All that really happened.

And if all that really happened I need to look at life in such a different way. I know I've realised this before, but I need to take stock again, and get on with it properly.

At the end of the service we sand a song called The Stand off the latest United Live album, and maybe it was because of the simple revolations I'd had, but the words really cut into me.

"And I'll stand, with arms high and heart abandoned 
In awe of the one who gave it all
And I'll stand, my soul Lord to you surrendered
All I am is yours"

I am in awe... I really am, and it's the basics that have me in awe, not some super-spiritual act, no some deep theological insight... just the basic Jesus loves me this I now, for the Bible tells me so....

----------- original post here.

Jesus healing the paralysed man

I preached last Sunday on Mark 2:1-12; the story of the paralysed man who's mates dig a hole in the roof and lower him down to Jesus.  Jesus when seeing their faith forgives the sins of the disabled man and then heals him only after the teachers of the law question his authority.

It's a story that highlights our greatest need. This man was hoping to be heal, believed he would be heals and went to a pretty tremendous effort to get to Jesus to be healed.  But Jesus knew his greatest need wasn't fixed legs, but forgiveness.  And Jesus being God was the only person able to give that to him.

I used a personal testimony to illustrate throughout so if you'd like to hear the sermon go here to get the MP3 or listen online - City North Baptist Sermons: Dean Sandham - Our Greatest Need:Forgiveness.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

How does Deuteronomy 12 relate to us today?

an excerpt from an assignment I'm writing - hence some funny referencing :-)

______________________________________________________________

Deuteronomy 12 expected that the people of Israel were instructed on the importance of their one true centre of worship. Christensen (2001, 244) explains that for the “…Christian this principle of one center [sic] of true worship is correct; but the center is not a place but rather a person who embodies the symbols of ancient Israelite worship.” Because of Jesus – who is described in Scripture as ‘our Passover lamb’ (1 Cor 5:7) – the need for personal animal sacrifices is no more; essentially he has become the one and only atoning sacrifice needed for believers.

The people of Israel were instructed to first rid their territory of every Canaanite religious site and to make sure they do not worship Yahweh ‘in their way’ (Deut 12:4), Christensen then raises the point “…to ponder on the part of those who would ‘contextualize’ [sic] the gospel in cross-cultural mission situations.” This does raise questions regarding those organisations who allow converts to Christianity to continue being involved in their cultural religious paradigms as long as they focus their worship on Jesus - in some cases albeit secretly. This would also have to include Christian leaders in the Western world who, in attempting to appeal to a postmodern audience, have subjectively changed their Gospel views to secure the salvation of good people (Buddhist, Christian, Agnostic or otherwise) and deny the existence of an eternal punishment or place of hell (Anderson 2006; McLaren 2007). If pagan rite and religion is to be cleansed before God chooses the place in which his name will dwell (Deut 12:5); would that then, today, not also imply we should worship Jesus according to the Gospel, without ‘adding or taking away from it’ (Deut 12:32)? “True religion is found in the conscious rejection of every false dependence” (Christensen 2001, 249).

How then is worship prescribed for Christians today? Brown (1993, 144) outlines that the same concepts of worship and religious practice which applied to Israel apply to us today;
…worship will not only honour God’s word; it will reflect God’s nature. He is holy, so their worship can never be impure. He is consistent, so their worship can never be contradictory, worshipping in one way but behaving in another. He is loving, so their worship will never have a harmful effect on others. He is righteous, so their worship must never ignore moral values…

These are the notions of the pagan religion God calls Israel away from (Deut 12:29-30), the idea of the importance of his central sanctuary and the emphasis on rejoicing at the offering of sacrifices (Deut 12:5-7).

One must also examine the elements of worship which are specifically mentioned for Jesus’ followers. Acts 2:42 speaks of believers devoting themselves to apostolic preaching, fellowship and the Lord’s Supper. James 1:27 says; “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” In the light of Deuteronomy 12 one sees that these are similar to the statutes in place regarding the centralised sanctuary. The idea of teaching to fill the religious void of wider spread sacrifices, the fellowship of coming together to share sacrificial feasts, remembering atoning sacrifices and providing for those who are unable so they might worship as well can all be seen through these New Testament verses (Routledge 2009, 22-24).

D-Camp 2010

Back a week ago the City North Young Adults ministry had its annual D-Camp.

It was a good time of learning and fellowship - a highlights video has been made so check out what we got up to.


City North Baptist: D-Camp 2010 Highlights from City North Baptist Church on Vimeo.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Sermon to be written...


All ready to spend the day writing a sermon on Mark 2:1-12 (go look it up) with my Bible, pens, highlighters and a mighty big cup of tea :-)

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Jesus' Resurrection Ensures our Justification

In only one passage does Paul explicitly connect Christ's resurrection with our justification (or our receiving a declaration that we are not guilty but righteous before God).  Paul says that Jesus "was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (Rom 4:25).  When Christ was raised from the dead, it was God's declaration of approval of Christ's work of redemption.  Because Christ "humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:8), "God highly exalted him..." (Phil 2:9).  By raising Christ from the dead, God the Father was in effect saying that he approved of Christ's work of suffering and dying for our sins, that his work was completed and that Christ no longer had any need to remain dead.  There was no penalty left to pay for sin, no more wrath of God to bear, no more guilt or liability to punishment - all had been completely paid for, and no guilt remained.  In the resurrection, God was saying to Christ, "I approve of what you have done, and you find favour in my sight."
Grudem, Systematic Theology, p615 

Still going...

The boys on the 2000 Walk are still plodding along.  They're on their way to Bundaberg by the weekend having covered more than 1000kms already.

Some days though it just seems like there's nothing at all to see or do, except keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Read about their boring day on their blog.

Though it seems sometimes the boys get lucky and find something on the edge of the highway to keep them amused for a while...

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Jesus' Resurrection Ensures our Regeneration

Peter says that "we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3).  Here he explicitly connects Jesus' resurrection with our regeneration or new birth.  When Jesus rose from the dead he had a new quality of life, a "resurrection life" in a human body and human spirit that were perfectly suited for fellowship and obedience to God forever.  In his resurrection, Jesus earned for us a new life just like his.  We do not receive all of that new "resurrection life" when we become Christians, for our bodies remain as they were, still subject to weakness, aging, and death.  But in our spirits we are made alive with new resurrection power.  Thus it is through his resurrection that Christ earned for us the new kind of life we receive when we are "born again."  This is why Paul can say that God "made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him" (Eph 2:5-6; Col 3:1)
Grudem, Systematic Theology p214

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

God, through Jesus, saving us by Holy Love

John Stott, in The Cross of Christ outlines very well Jesus' redemptive act on the cross, portraying it as the central consideration for Christian faith.

For, although indeed ‘God is love’, yet we have to remember that his love is ‘holy love’, love which yearns over sinners while at the same time refusing to condone their sin.    How, then, could God express his holy love – his love in forgiving sinners without compromising his holiness, and his holiness in judging sinners without frustrating his love?   Confronted by human evil, how could God be true to himself as holy love?... For, despite the truth that God demonstrated his righteousness by taking action to save his people, the words ‘righteousness’ and ‘salvation’ cannot be regarded as simple synonyms. Rather his saving initiative was compatible with, and expressive of, his righteousness. At the cross in holy love God through Christ paid the full penalty of disobedience himself. He bore the judgement we deserve in order to bring us the forgiveness we do not deserve. On the cross divine mercy and justice were equally expressed and eternally reconciled. God’s holy love was ‘satisfied’.
p105

How was it satisfied?

How, people ask, can we possibly believe that God needed some kind of ‘satisfaction’ before he was prepared to forgive, and that Jesus Christ provided it by enduring as our ‘substitute’ the punishment we sinners deserved?  Are not such notions unworthy of the God of the biblical revelation, a hangover from primitive superstitions, indeed frankly immoral?
p131

To be sure, ‘self-satisfaction’ in fallen human beings is a particularly unpleasant phenomenon, whether it refers to the satisfying of our instincts and passions or to our complacency…. But there is no lack of self-control or humility in God, since he is perfect in all his thoughts and desires. To say that he must ‘satisfy himself’ means that he must be himself and act according to the perfection of his nature or ‘name’
p146

So God sent his Son out of love for us... His love for us isn't depended on the cross... but the cross is dependent on his love for us - that's amazing

No forgiveness without blood meant no atonement without substitution. There had to be life for life or blood for blood. But the Old Testament blood sacrifices were only shadows; the substance was Christ. For a substitute to be effective, it must be an appropriate equivalent. Animal sacrifices could not atone for human beings, because a human being is ‘much more valuable… than a sheep’, as Jesus himself said (Matt.12:12). Only ‘the precious blood of Christ’ was valuable enough (1 Pet.1:19).
p163

Grover, the monster you want to be like.

Most people have seen (or at least heard someone quote) the Old Spice ads from the US.  The 'Old Spice Man' has become an instant legend... even pulling a pretty funny cameo on the latest series of Chuck.

I love that Sesame Street have come out with a parity.  I think it's just a whimsical ad for their program, but it shows some quirky humor and quick whit. Have a look...




::I'm on a horse

"MOO"

::...cow

haha classic!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Brisbane; beautiful one day.... biblically flooding the next!

We've had record rainfall here in Brisbane the past few days.  Living at the bottom of a long and slowly descending street has its dowfalls (pun kinda intended).


Our backyard (you'll notice the newly dug trench which has drained most of the water this morning).


Wet and ruined carpet...


...from my housemate's room (in the garage).


Where's the water coming from?  The entire suburb it seems, draining from other yards into ours.


And pooling - though the trench is making a difference.


Some is also running down the driveway to the road (meaning you park then find yourself in ankle deep water).

Friday, 8 October 2010

Unsettled few days...

I have had some major PC issues since Wednesday afternoon.  It seems I somehow corrupted the registry which caused pretty chaotic damage.

A backup, rebuild and few hours work later and everything seems to be back in order though.  I think the only thing I lost was my Outlook email contacts list - but I think most of that is still around on an old drive somewhere.

Glad it's all sorted now, so I can focus on getting some assignments done and more importantly the car racing this weekend :-)

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Malyon College Open Night

Have you ever wonder what Bible College might be like?  You may never have considered coming to Bible College, but you might just wonder about what goes on.  If so, then for both the serious college considerer and the casual take a looker Malyon is having an Open Night.

Come along and experience a portion of a lecture, have supper with the students, and spend some time with the principal who will answer any questions you might have.

Hey and I'll even be there :-p

Here are all the details.  More can be found here.
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WHEN: Tuesday 19th October.

WHERE: Malyon College - 53 Prospect Rd Gaythorne

PROGRAM:
6.15 College lecture - join the evening class
7.00 Information about Malyon courses
8.00 Supper with evening class students
8.15 Interviews with faculty

WHAT:
-Find out about courses
-Get a taste for lectures
-Check out the campus and facilities
-Meet lecturers
-Chat with students
-Ask your questions
-Listen to what God is doing.

What is the Image of God #2

Wayne Grudem gives us a good idea of the meaning of being made in the image of God.

"Out of all the creatures God made, only one creature, man, is said to be made "in the image of God."  What does that mean? We may use the following definition: The fact that man is in the image of God means that man is like God and represents God.
When God says, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Gen 1:26), the meaning is that God plans to make a creature similar to himself...
Theologians have spent much time attempting to specify one characteristic of man, or a very few, in which the image of God is primarily seen.  Some have thought that the image of God consists in man's intellectual ability, others in his power to make moral decisions and willing choices.  Others have thought the image of God referred to man's original moral purity, or his creation as male and female (see Gen. 1:27), or his dominion over earth..."
Grudem, Systematic Theology, 442-443.

So we are created to be like God and represent God.  Of  the notions given which do you think is the most apt way we are the image of God?

Sunday, 3 October 2010

What is the Image of God #1

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible states:

So God created man in his own image,.... Which consisted both in the form of his body, and the erect stature of it, different from all other creatures; in agreement with the idea of that body, prepared in covenant for the Son of God, and which it was therein agreed he should assume in the fulness of time; and in the immortality of his soul, and in his intellectual powers, and in that purity, holiness, and righteousness in which he was created; as well as in his dominion, power, and authority over the creatures, in which he was as God's viceregent, and resembled him.

So are these the elements of being made in the image of God?

  • the image of God's body/standing erect
  • that God would become human and not another animal
  • our soul is immortal
  • our intelligence
  • created perfect
  • our power and status over all living creatures.
What do you think?  I don't agree with all of them... or maybe any of them in their current wording... but more on that later.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Not very Pastoral

There's a story on news.com.au [here] about a boy who died in a car accident  a few months ago. During the autopsy his brain was removed and stored for later tests (unbeknown to his family). Just the other day students from his school were on a field trip to the mortuary and saw the jar with the brain and his name on a label.

Very disturbing for those students and the family who found out about it all later.  It's a terrible mistake yet this paragraph was the thing that disgusted me the most.

The Shipley family's priest told the family he didn't consider the son's burial proper without the remaining body part, so after the organ was returned, the Shipleys had to bury their son for the second time in three months, and "go through another anguishing funeral service," court papers said.

What kind of person puts a family through that again!  I mean really that's disturbing on a very deep level from that priest.

The question of humanity

What does it mean to be human? What  does being made in the image of God mean?  I want to examine these questions a little over a couple of posts.  To start questioning our thoughts and ideas here's a bit out of Driscoll and Breshears book Doctrine.

"There was a day in which people did not think of themselves in primarily individual terms. Instead what it meant to be a person was largely defined by one's relationship to such communities as family, history, parents, ethnicity, nationality, city, religion and trade...
However everything changed in the days of the church father Augustine... [He] did not look outward to his social network but rather inward to his feelings, convictions, longings, and the like.  This elevated the importance of the autonomous individual in understanding the essence of humanity...
In light of this historical transition, the average person, including the average Christian, is far worldlier and less biblical in his understanding of who he is and why he exists than he is aware. He thinks in worldly categories rather than biblical categories because the culture in which he lives is so fundamentally unbiblical in its thinking   Sociologist Christian Smith has said that the true religion of most people in the West today, regardless of what religion they profess to participate in, is moralistic therapeutic deism. By moralistic he means we are good individuals who can get better, not sinners who need actual salvation.  By therapeutic he means that it is counseling and therapy, not God or the church, that enable our betterment. By deism he means that God is not really involved in our lives; we are essentially on our own with the occasional exceptions of God answering a prayer we send him or sending us a pithy insight to aid our betterment."
  - p111-113 Doctrine.

Do you think our focus on the individual has changed our human makeup? It seems to certainly have changed the image of the human on earth.  To the point where it continues to effect even those saved by Jesus.

Do you agree with this view?

Friday, 24 September 2010

Friday Reflection: Trevor and Love.

Here's a post from May 2008.  It's an image I posted of a Trevor comic I read in the local newspaper.  I don't think the writer would have had any specific intent in his creation of this comic but I was left feeling amazed at the truth behind it. (You can read the original post here)


The cross continually blows my mind with the depth of love needed for Jesus (God himself) to be willing to take our place in the penalty for our sins.  I understand that a judicial system must carry out its given sentence.  I have no presumptions that I am inherently a good person, I know I willingly break God's laws and code all too often.  But the fact that even though I continually spit in God's face with my actions, he is still willing to pay for all the junk I do wrong just leaves me stumped.   How can he love me so much!?  Paradoxically I feel so unworthy of that love, yet because I have received that love, I feel of unmeasurable worth.

They're the thoughts this comic conjured up back in 2008, and still do... I am no less amazed, or grateful now than I was then!

John 4:10 "This is love, not that we love God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins."

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Why does God need a payment for Forgiveness?

Some good stuff in my Theology reading today...  Erickson p833

"Why does God not simply forgive sins?  Why does he require a payment of a pound of flesh as it were?  We humans are capable of forgiving one another simply by an act of good will.  We do not require that persons who have wronged us make reparation before we are willing to take them back into our favour.  If this is possible for Christians to do, should not God be able to do the same?
Those who raise this objection have failed to consider who God really is.  God is not merely a private person who has been wronged, but is also the official administrator of the judicial system. As a private person he could in a sense forgive offenses against himself, just as humans forgive one another.  But for God to remove or ignore the guilt of sin without requiring a payment would in effect destroy the very moral fiber of the universe, the distinction between right and wrong..."

Makes sense to me.  We don't expect people to get off when they're found guilty in a court of law.  It makes me more thankful that Jesus was willing to be that 'pound of flesh' repayment for my sin.  That's still incomprehensible... all I can be is grateful

Christians and the Law

From Erickson p820

"The law should not be thought of as something impersonal and foreign to God, but as an expression of God's person and will.  He does not command love and forbid murder simply because he decides to do so. His very nature issues in his enjoining certain actions and prohibiting others.  God pronounces love good because he himself is love. Lying is wrong because God himself cannot lie.
This means that, in effect, the law is something of a transcript of the nature of God.  When we relate to it, whether positively or negatively, we are not relating to an impersonal document or set of regulations.  Rather, it is God himself whom we are obeying or disobeying.  Disobeying the law is serious, not because the law has some inherent value or dignity that must be preserved, but because disobeying it is actually an attack on the very nature of God himself."

I think this also shows why legalism is such a problem, because we're taking the law for its own sake not Gods, kind of making an idol out of the law.

Good thoughts??

Saturday, 18 September 2010

A few years late...

video
...but I've finally edited up the WEC Highschool Camp ice slide footage from 2007.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Friday Reflection: Christocentricity.

This is a post I wrote in September 2006.  Each Friday I'm going to look back and find something from the 5 years I've been blogging and bring it into today's context.

Here's part of the original post, about an elective I did at Recharge in 06

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The Recharge booklet had this little blurb about this elective.


Within the church, fashions come and go, fads rise and die, agenda’s wax and wane. When all the hype dies down we sometimes as Christians and churches find ourselves off-centre, with our energies and passions directed at things other than Christ and His agenda setting teachings. This elective will examine how the Beatitudes contrast vividly with aspects of contemporary Australian spirituality and how we can recalibrate.


Straight off the bat we tossed up the dominant properties of today’s Australian spirituality. In the media, both Christian and secular, who are the main characters representing the Australian church. What do we within the church see as the main aspects that are seen about Aussies ‘religious spirituality’.


I put forward that Australian’s spirituality is music driven, we discussed the music/worship niche; it seems that churches these days are defined by their music. This is highlighted by the fact that people can walk out of a church service and ask “How was the worship tonight?” – “Yeah it was a little off tonight hey…”Churches win new people from other churches because their music is better.


Stan (of course) had a list he had prepared earlier. Dominant Christian figures included mainly Anglican and Catholic Bishops, but of course you can’t ignore that these days Brian Houston is probably Australia’s most well known minister. He defined the major themes of Australian Spirituality to include some of the following, power, wealth, blessing, intensity, prosperity, (there were others but I’m sorry they’ve slipped my mind).


I think he was pretty well right on.


We then spent the remaining time looking at Jesus’ sermon. His big speaking opportunity when he takes the time to teach people about his Father.
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To read the entire blog click here.

These days I think the focus of music is still high in most churches.  Though I know the culture of City North and other Baptist churches around here is more making sure proper doctrine and Biblical teaching is at the forefront of services.

I think the growing pressure on the church, and the secular disdain for the church is changing our major themes of "...power, wealth, blessing, intensity, prosperity..." and making us find a firmer foundation to base our beliefs on.

The church can always do better, and in Australia I think the majority still have to change their main theme back to Christ.  But as persecution grows I think that will force us to do that more and more.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Frustrated

Wasted 4 hours today trying to convert and edit the footage of my sermon to make a DVD to hand in for my college assessment.

If only I'd watched the original footage, I'd have very quickly realised the whole thing was useless... it cuts out after 10 minutes to some weird multi colour pixel thing, and then splits itself into different files, but each one is not consecutive and there are chunks missing, and the live footage jumps around like an out-take reel.

Totally useless for my assessment.

Thankfully I can hand in an audio only file.  I have one of these which works fine (from the church website).

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The 2000 Map

The latest email from the boys doing The 2000 Walk shows a map of the 2000 languages still without any Scripture translated for them.

Most are well within the 10/40 Window, the greatest area of need for the sharing of the Gospel.

So pick a language group and pray for them, and if you have any other means to help get in contact with the Walkers.

How Well Do We Know the Story?

Does our Church upbringing, and Sunday School influence mean we get an idea of Bible stories but sometimes miss the real meaning?

Take Cain and Able (Genesis 4:1-17)...

Most people know this story, from Sunday School teachings and our growing up influences (possibly even preaching from the 'usual' standpoint) yet does our knowledge and idea of the story provide a true idea of what the narrative is really trying to get across.

Our usual understanding would be Able = good... Cain = bad.  God was angry at Cain for his offering, Cain was jealous that God accepted Able's offering and killed him.  God then comes and gets angry with Cain, cursing him. - The moral of our usual understanding is that sin is bad, sin separates us from God and God knows all our deeds so we can't lie to him.

But should the story be better named "Cain and God" as opposed to "Cain and Able"?  Abel is not really a subject of the story, more so it is the interaction between God and Cain which is the subject of the story.

The first thing we notice when we read the story without the bias of the usual understanding is that there is no real distinction between the two offerings of Adam's sons except that God accepted one but not the other.  There is no reason given for this, there's no instructions given on how offerings were to be presented, or even what should be presented - so we cannot read future law given to the Israelites into the story if we are to take this story as the text gives it to us.  It's not that Cain simply comes with an unsatisfactory offering.   The first critical point in the text was that God looks at "Able and his offering" and "Cain and his offering" and accepts the first but rejects the later.

According to the Hebrew text, the response of Cain was one of depression not anger.  This then aligns with the second part of God's questions "Why is your face downcast?"   This brings about a unusual idea which I think in many cases is overlooked.  First - God talks to Cain just as he spoke with Adam.  We often read this and dismiss it as normal, but just think, even though it is only pages away from God's communication with Adam in Gen 3, this is a totally different setting.  Humans are now outside of the garden, yet the inter-communicative relationship continues, and more than that, it's not only continuing with Adam, but his son Cain who's offering has been rejected by God.

Second - Cain talks to God and is given a choice.  From the text we see that Cain is not simply evil - but that his first offering here was simply not accepted by God.  God doesn't right him off (we are not given the impression that God was looking towards Cain's murder of Able) - but gives him the choice "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?... sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it."  God basically calls Cain on his offering, nothing can be done to change that rejection, God though extends to Cain the opportunity to go forward and now do what is right.  The emphasis is on Cain's response to God.

Is Able's murder then a response to his offering or Cain's response to God?   The passage doesn't highlight an issue of  whether this is pre-meditated murder (Cain entrapping Able into the field to kill him, or Cain taking Able into the field in an attempt to find a way to rule over sin yet failing miserably), instead it kind of gives the idea that this part of the story is more symbolic of Cain's relationship to God, than Cain's direct response to Able.    Able is the reminder that Cain's offering was not accepted, so instead of jealously it could possibly be a reaction to God (Cain murders Able because he cannot murder God - get rid of the reminder if you can't get rid of the source).

So then does the morals of our usual understanding align with this textual reading?  For one, the sin didn't separate God from Cain - he still spoke with Cain, they interacted with each other. God laid out what was wrong, yet offered the continuing choice to rule over sin.  Even when Cain had murdered his brother, God may have cursed him, but still gave him a mark of protection so that he would not be killed himself.  There does not seem to be an ultimate disconnection from God, and possibly a means of reconciliation (not recorded in the text however).

Even in sin we can be relational to God, he is disappointed, he does require us to rule over sin, yet we can come to God even in sin and be renewed (for us this comes through justification by the blood of Jesus).

In many cases this is presented as a simple Sunday School story to show us good and bad - yet being the first story told to us outside of the garden, it might point to a wholly more significant function.  Only one generation after creation, we see personal sin, punished personally and sin developing to murder (culturally even today the most heinous of crimes), more than that the murder of a brother.  Yet God relates with this sinner, speaks to him even in his worst moments, and though Cain fears his punishment would cast him from God's presence God replies that that would not be so.

There are many things we can take from this passage, on a much deeper level than the story we usually take in.

Are Church Denominations Diminishing?

John Sweetman wrote on the NeoLeader blog here about the changing trend in churches with the diminishing of denominational walls.

"...Denominational distinctives and pastoral pride and protectiveness are diminishing In the face of an overwhelming flood of secular opposition. Christians are focusing more on what they have in common rather than what separates them.
An evidence of the growing ability for churches to work together is the flourishing school chaplaincy movement. Churches not only work together on committees, but invest significant funds in this cooperative venture. The use of our money is always a clear sign of our values.
Some churches remain isolationist because they perceive that they have something to offer that other churches don’t. Some churches are willing to cooperate to a degree but are concerned about the lowering of theological barriers. Some churches only work with the narrow group that they trust. But generally barriers between churches are diminishing and cooperation is seen as an important value. People are praying, serving, working and worshipping together across churches."

Is this your experience with churches in your area?

Friday, 10 September 2010

Meeting people's needs.

This is something we've been discussing in my Pastoral Care Field Education classes at college.  We've looked at chaplaincy and conflict ministry and then last week ministry to the bereaved and funeral services.

It's also something I've been experiencing through my pastoral internship at City North, especially these past few weeks.   I have found myself in situations where I have no idea what the people I'm ministering too are going through, it's something much greater than I've ever experienced, yet I still need to be able to meet their needs in this time of trouble.

Some things I've learnt are...


  • don't say too much - in many cases people simply need you to be there.  I've found that simply sitting there and listening, or crying with or watching is what people need in times of struggle.  I found this a tad hard when I was mainly interacting with a friend who's Dad had passed away overseas... most of my communication with him was via Facebook chat.  Yet still even in that situation just simply being online and there to talk if needed was the key factor
  • don't be afraid of silence - this one leads from the last, but if you feel the need to fill every time of silence you're going to end up saying a lot of unnecessary stuff.  Silence is a time to let thoughts process, and that's key when people have suffered trauma, been emotionally ripped apart or are grieving.  Just wait until thoughts have been processed and people are ready to either try and discuss them or just thank you for supporting them while they do it.
  • don't feel you have to avoid the issue.  If someone has died, discuss it, talk about the person who passed away, discuss relationships - good times and bad.  If it is a conflict, don't try and dance around the issue, mention exactly what you think is going on then listen to other sides of the story.  
  • read the Bible.  Know passages that will benefit people in different times, and whether they are believers or not, do not be afraid of giving them Scripture that is relevant to their situation.
These are just some points I've thought about recently.  What is your advice for meeting people's needs??

Happy 1st Birthday Nathanael

Today is my nephew's 1st birthday.  It does not feel that long ago that we were receiving word from Vancouver about our new little addition and travelling there to meet the little fella.

It's been a great year, especially since Ness and Andy came home round Christmas time, I've had a lot of fun playing uncle.

Happy Birthday Nae!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Psalm 121

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;

4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;

8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Worst Quote I've seen in a while...

Saw this on a very fundamentalist Christian's page the other day...

"If they are not your friends for eternity, they are not your friends." --Mark Cahill
I understand that this person may have taken Mark Cahill out of context and in context the quote may not be as harsh as it sounds, yet it's clear the opinion this person was trying to convey by quoting just this part of the text...  I'm very glad Jesus didn't have that opinion, cause it's only cause of his love while I was his enemy that now means I can be his friend.

Sermon Online

If you do wish to listen to my sermon. You will find it on the City North website - here.

It is kind of daunting knowing that anyone who wants to, anywhere in the world can now listen to a sermon I've preached!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Preached it up.

My first sermon at City North Baptist went well last night.  I'm no Mark Driscoll, but I felt that God used it so I can't ask for more than that.

The title of the sermon was "Our Mountaintop View of God's Love" and the passage was Romans 8:31-39.   The main truth was that "We are Safe in God" and I looked at 3 times when we are safe in God.

- In Condemnation
- In Suffering
- In any Situation.

The overwhelming idea is that because Jesus has paid the ultimate price for our sin, and we won't or don't have to suffer for them then nothing will separate us from God's love and hence we are always safe in God.

It was an encouraging passage, and for believers an encouraging message (I hope) - and I also pray that it was challenging for anyone who doesn't have a faith in Jesus and allowed them to see that though God doesn't promise us we won't suffer, he does promise he will never leave us and always love us.... but God is only for us if we have faith in his Son.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Kinda Scary

It makes it just that little bit more real when you see your name in the Church bulletin as the preacher for the next Sunday...

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Christ's Parallel to Passover

Quote from John Stott, "The Cross of Christ" (p166)

"The message must have been absolutely clear to the Israelites; it is equally clear to us who see the fulfilment of the Passover in the sacrifice of Christ.  First, the Judge and the Saviour are the same person.  It was God who 'passed through' Egypt to judge the firstborn, who ;passed over' the Israelite homes to protect them.  We must never characterize the Father as Judge and the Son as Saviour.  It is one and the same God who through Christ saves us from himself. Secondly, salvation was (and is) by substitution.  The only firstborn males who were spared were those in whose families a firstborn lamb had died instead.  Thirdly, the lamb's blood had to be sprinkled after it had been shed.  The had to be an individual appropriation of the divine provision.  God had to 'see the blood' before he would save the family. Fourthly, each family rescued by God was thereby purchased for God. Their whole life now belonged to him. So does ours. And consecration leads to celebration.  The life of the redeemed is a feast, ritually expressed in the Eucharist, the Christian festival of thanksgiving..."
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