Saturday, 29 June 2013

Who is Jesus?

Written for our new church website, slightly based on the two ways to live presentation I have memorised.

Our initial understanding of who Jesus is must begin with the fact that God created, and is in charge, of the whole world. When He had finished creating the world He looked at it and saw it was all very good. With that in mind God had created humans, in His own likeness, to care for and be responsible for the world. God is the ruler, because he is the creator, humankind was created to live under his good reign. This way was perfect – God is completely good and under his rule humans were the best cared for they could ever imagine.

But unfortunately humankind desired to rule itself, to have their own knowledge of good and evil, and to try and fend for themselves. If we’re all honest with ourselves we must confess we are still like this today. We look out for ourselves, thinking we know what is best for our own lives. In that sense we have all rebelled against the God who created us, the One who’s original plan of his rule and guidance provided the best environment for us. Today we live in a world infected by the long history of humankind’s rebellion.

But God loves His creation, especially those He made in His own image. So much so that our rebellion affects Him greatly, He must take it seriously. In creating the world good God created it within the ways of His own nature, and His nature is completely holy – that is without a trace of evil or badness – so humankind’s rebellion cannot continue to be tolerated. God is completely right to hold humans to account for their rebellion, in doing so He gives humans the environment they have been trying to create for themselves, a place without Him. Our rebellion means that we will be separated from God. Living in His creation as we are now means we still have some connection with Him, even if we do not acknowledge it. In the judgement for our rebellion God will cut us off from Him, entirely and eternally. Humans cannot grasp how horrible this will be as it is something they have yet to experience. However it is something we all face, because we have all rebelled against God.

Yet God had such a great love for humans that He acted to save us from our rebellion and our fate. That is who Jesus is! He is only Son of God – divine Himself He is God, but He came to earth as a human, experienced the entirety of human life, but He never rebelled from God’s way. Jesus is the only human to ever live who did not deserve to die or be judged for humankind’s rebellion. The entire story of the Bible, right from the creation stories in Genesis, point to Jesus coming to fulfill the revelation of God and the salvation for humankind. Jesus did die. Jesus allowed Himself to be arrested, beaten and hung on a cross in the most brutal form or execution. He did this because He was substituting Himself in our place, taking that judgement from God for rebellion, He felt the disconnect from God, He experienced the punishment for sin. All so we could have a way not to, so we could experience forgiveness and a right relationship with God.

That is something we simply do not deserve, but because of Jesus we experience grace. God saw that Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice was good. Because Jesus was human and never rebelled He could stand in the place of judgement innocent, and because Jesus was God He could choose to accept the punishment for all of His creation. Since His sacrifice was good God raised Him from the dead and the risen Jesus represents once again what humanity was always suppose to be – created to live under the rule of God with no rebellion.

Understanding who Jesus is brings us to a point of decision. Will we continue to live our own way, rebelling against God? Or will we choose to accept Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice and live under His rule with faith in Him? One decision will lead to being eventually cut off from good forever and one will lead to forever living just as God first created us torebellion. God appointed Jesus as King and Lord over all creation. He is now the one who judges rebellion and He offers humankind new life in His name. This new life comes through faith in Jesus to save us, to realise that He did substitute Himself for us, and that He is the King and ruler of the world. The reward is to become like Him, a human who lives forever under the good rule of God.

Monday, 24 June 2013

A point of proof against the Catholic exhaltation of Mary

"As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”"
Luke 11:27-28
This just seemed a little sidetrack story as I was reading through Luke the other day.  Though only two verses which kind of segue from the main narration just for a moment, I felt a profound truth is spoken.

I have had some exposure to the Catholic church and it's belief system, and I think I've almost heard the terminology of that woman in the crowd used to describe Mary - "Blessed is the womb that bore the Christ".

Yet Jesus doesn't acknowledge it at all.  If Jesus is God, and his earthly mother is a special 'sub-deity' (almost) then don't you think he would have acknowledged it when someone else brought it up?  Instead he points people to the Word of God and the need to stay true to it.  There is no evidence that Mary was anything but a humble, obedient and specially chosen young lady.  That's what the Word says, I wonder if Jesus was giving a command with a warning for the future?

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Conversion and Baptism

In the NT period a Christian unattached to a church was unknown, since a person's very response to the gospel in baptism would have brought him or her into the fellowship of a local company of Christ's people.  Our difficulties today in applying this teaching arise from separating baptism and conversion so that a considerable number of years frequently lie between the two... We are also hampered by 'church' having become a formal institutionalized structure rather than the living communion of men and women in Christ, which it was at first.
Bruce Milne; Know the Truth, p287

I struggle to comprehend the 'gap' between conversion and baptism which many practice these days. I was 9 when I got baptised, because one morning I came to realise the saving factor of God's grace. I was blown away by His love, His sacrifice and the fact I needed to make Him Lord of my life.  My reaction to that was to go and tell my mother I wanted to be baptised.  When she asked why, I was able to tell her the reasons I just mentioned.  For me baptism was a natural, instant response to the faith I found in Jesus (even in the child-like understanding I had when I was 9).  I'd heard the stories about Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, and the households Peter had evangelised too, and had seen their initial response to the Gospel was the joyful act of baptism, so I found my actions felt completely normal.

Does that mean it's a cultural thing that people wait a few years now before they get baptised?  Is it because we aren't sharing the Gospel properly? or explaining what baptism is properly?  As I said, it's a concept I struggle to understand, or see how to do different.

Maybe also this idea of the institutionalised church hampers it (culturally) as well.  Because baptism then allows for membership do we want people to 'prove' their faith over a bit of time before we talk about baptism, so that we 'protect' the membership of the church?

So many questions, and I don't really have any answers.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Jesus Video re-mix

The good old Jesus Video is looking really dated these days. Maybe it's time someone produced a new one.  I love the idea of a video that follows the Scripture exactly.  I just feel like the music, filmography and mannerisms are so outdated these days that it is hard to use anymore.

I can't imagine what kind of undertaking it would be to produce a new Jesus video (based on any of the Gospels, but I'd like to see either Matthew or John)... but with the 'feel good' Christian movie enterprise apparently taking off I am sure there are people out there who could do it.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Get out in the field.

The Harvest Is Plentiful, the Laborers Few 
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Matthew 9:35-38, ESV

A big reminder for me this week was that you can't be a harvester without getting out into the field.  Jesus looks out and sees a harvest ready for picking... but there is nowhere near enough workers to go out into the field.  I wonder how many there were just sitting on the edge of the field enjoying each other's company?

That's kinda how the church ends up sometimes, sitting in their buildings, enjoying each other's company, but not out doing the work which Jesus has called us to. Working on the mission means getting out into the field so we can harvest.

Jesus is our best example of this, even God was out healing sick and caring for people - as well as teaching and proclaiming the Gospel. We should be doing the same.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Emotionally invested.

Does the Gospel affect you emotionally?  I wonder if sometimes we buck against the overtly charismatic nature of many of the churches we see in the media by becoming decisively unemotional about the Gospel.

The Word is important, but there is a relationship involved as well. Does focusing solely on the Word and theology dry up our emotional connection to God?  As a pastor dealing with mainly teaching I think this week I have been reconnected with the emotion of being in relationship with God, but how do I effectively communicate it to my church without being seen as a fruit-loop?

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Too close

Have a look at this video of a pigeon at the Monaco Grand Prix the other week.

That's not a brave bird, it's a stupid bird.  The silly thing didn't have a chance; it was in a dangerous place and, with the speed of a Formula 1 car, it did not get an opportunity to react to the impending danger.

A lot of Christians live their life like that pigeon. They have a faith, they communicate with God and let Jesus into their lives, but either during the week or when they are on their own (or maybe with non Christian friends) they put themselves out there in dangerous situations.  Maybe a relationship with someone who doesn't hold the same beliefs or morals as you... maybe a night club... maybe a party where others will be partaking in excessive alcohol or drugs... maybe a secluded spot with a computer that has access to unwholesome websites...

...whatever it is, many Christians use the excuse of being relevant to the world so they can go and live life close to what I am going to call 'the pagan edge' - people who don't have Gospel centered lives clearly live with pagan morals, no definitive truth and baselines set by their own personal views.  Christians live lives centred on the Gospel, not just in what we believe, but how we act.  By stepping out on the pagan edge Christians run the risk of being swept away.  Most times (like the dumb pigeon) the danger races in at such a pace there is no time to react and before we know it we are back flipping widely - or worse... embedded lifelessly in the front wing of a race car.

Why take the risk - why not just stand on the foundation of Jesus and let him lead you, don't step away towards the edge, because getting close usually means sinning and going way to far.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Chaplaincy at the 2013 Winternationals

I will be assisting my father again this year with the chaplaincy work at the Winternationals drag racing meet at Willowbank Raceway.  It's been 8 years since my first Winternationals as chaplain, and though I missed one or two, it is a big part of my year.  A few years back the local Ipswich paper did a story on Dad. I thought I'd copy it up here again to give you all a little insight, and maybe you can be in prayer for us this week as we work trackside.

Chaplain offers a helping hand
Charlie Sandham's behind-the-scenes work at motorsport meets plays a crucial role in the lives of competitors, crews and officials across South-East Queensland. Shannon Perry spoke to the volunteer motorsport chaplain about life in the fast lane. Charlie Sandham never misses a local major motorsport meet.
From drag racing at Wil­lowbank Raceway to the V8 Supercar Championship rounds and the Gold Coast Indy, Mr Sandham is always in the thick of the action.
It comes with his job as a motorsport chaplain.'
A love of cars and a chance opportunity four years ago sees Mr Sandham rubbing shoulders with motorsport royalty while offering a car­ing presence for competi­tors, crews and officials.
Mr Sandham, who juggles the volunteer work with a career as a planner for Tas­man Aviation Enterprises, is preparing for the Winternationals in June and Indy in October. "There are three major parts to my role as chaplain. Firstly you have to be the God person, someone who people can come to for a chat," Mr Sandham said.
"Secondly, you're a carer for people who may want to talk about personal or fam­ily issues.
"Finally, and perhaps the most hardest part, is the role I play in the case of a fatality or major accident. I'm there to look after and support people including the family and crew."
Mr Sandham said the motorsport community was still reeling after the deaths of V8 Supercar driver Ashley Cooper, who died in a racing incident earlier this year, and Queensland drag racer Kenneth Smith, who died when his rail dragster crashed at Willow­bank Raceway in 2007.
"The motorsport com­munity is very tight knit, and a fatality hits home hard. When Peter Brock died the effects were felt Australia wide," he said.
"Every chaplain had peo­ple who were affected and needed support."
Despite the sometimes dif­ficult circumstances, Mr Sandham· said being a motorsport chaplain was a rewarding way to combine his love of cars with a passion for helping others.
"These events would be impossible to run without the volunteers," he said.
"It's a big responsibility, but it's great to be a part of."

Monday, 3 June 2013


I guess this is a question to other pastors out there... or I guess anyone in a leadership position.

How do you feel about letters written to you from an anonymous person?  I opened a letter the other day which started "Regarding your sermon last week..." - I stopped reading at that point and looked at the end of the letter... which was not signed with a name.  I chose not to read the rest.  For one I knew that no matter what was said in the letter (either good or bad) that I had no opportunity to respond to the writer. Knowing the way my mind works I knew I'd spend time formulating responses in my head, so with no output I decided to give myself no input on the matter either.

But it left me wondering if I handled it correctly.  I know at college many of the lecturers said they didn't open or read anonymous letters - in a way I thought they sounded a little arrogant, but when faced with the position myself I acted the same way.  Do people deserve the right to anonymity, or should we only respond to those who can stand behind their statements?  A little pastoral input would be good on this...
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