Three Kings

The carols that we sing each year do such a magnificent job of underscoring who Jesus is and why He came. For example, in Hark the Herald Angels Sing, we learn that only through “the newborn King” can “God and sinners [be] reconciled.” 

This Advent we looked beyond the Christmas story, to the Christmas “back story”. We spent three weeks looking at Caesar Augustus, King Herod, and the Magi, the mysterious “Kings” from the East. Only when we understand the Kings and claims of the day, will we realise how subversive it is to sing “Glory to the newborn King”!

Three Kings: Caesar Augustus
Three Kings: Herod The Great
Three Kings: The Magi

You Are What You Love

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit
James K A Smith

Our sermon series “Creatures Of Habit” was born from this book.

“You Are What You Love” is one of the best books I’ve read this year. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I usually dislike re-reading books, but I will be coming back to this one for sure.

I love the author’s mind and creativity. This book is full of insight and profundity on everything from the Book of Common prayer to how George Lucas created the Star Wars universe, even the “liturgy” of the shopping mall. Here’s the Koorong blurb:

“In this book, award-winning author James K. A. Smith shows that who and what we worship fundamentally shape our hearts. And while we desire to shape culture, we are not often aware of how culture shapes us. We might not realize the ways our hearts are being taught to love rival gods instead of the One for whom we were made. Smith helps readers recognize the formative power of culture and the transformative possibilities of Christian practices. He explains that worship is the “imagination station” that incubates our loves and longings so that our cultural endeavors are indexed toward God and his kingdom. This is why the church and worshiping in a local community of believers should be the hub and heart of Christian formation and discipleship”.

Here is Tim Keller’s summary and commendation:

“James K. A. Smith’s You Are What You Love provides a user-friendly introduction to the sweeping Augustinian insight that we are shaped most by what we love most, more so than by what we think or do. If sin and virtue are disordered and rightly ordered love, respectively, and if the only way to change is to change what we worship, then this will lead us to rethink how we conduct Christian work and ministry. Jamie gives some foundational ideas on how this affects our corporate worship, our Christian education and formation, and our vocations in the world. An important, provocative volume!”

Chaplain’s Statement: Ahmadi Muslims On Norfolk Island

I have been asked to give my opinion on the activities of the Muslim missionaries currently active on Norfolk Island. While I maintain that religious freedom is the bedrock of all other freedoms, I did think it best to write to you about this group particularly due to our isolation, and lack of contact and context. What we need to know most about the Ahmadi, who have come to us claiming to be “True Islam” – is that they are considered by other muslims to be a cult.

I first became aware of the Ahmadi two years ago when they arrived as guests and companions of the “Universal Peace Federation” who were manoeuvring  to establish a “Peace Embassy” on Norfolk Island. 

The “Universal Peace Federation” was later exposed as a front organisation for the “Unification Church”. You might know the Unification Church by their other name – the “Moonies” (the “Moonies” continue to be known around the world for their mass, public weddings). Today, the “Moonies” in Australia meet in a “Peace Embassy” in central Sydney. A quick google search reveals that the Ahmadi Muslim community and the Unification Church share a strong connection, appearing at many of the same places and events.

It interested me that these two groups were connected, and on closer examination, I discovered that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is a significant Islamic cult (the equivalent of a “Christian” cult like the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints – the Mormons).

On their first visit to the island they suggested to me (and to others) that they had been asked to compile a special report for the United Nations. I consider this to be misleading. 

The Ahmadi movement, which has its origins in British-controlled northern India in the late 19th Century, identifies itself as a Muslim movement and follows the teachings of the Koran. However, it is regarded by orthodox Muslims as heretical because it does not believe that Mohammed was the final prophet sent to guide mankind (as orthodox Muslims believe is laid out in the Koran). In fact, the founder of the Ahmadi movement (Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad, 1835-1908) claimed to be the second-coming of Jesus.

While they go by the phrase “Love For Hatred For None” I do urge you to research the history of their movement, using your discernment and proceeding with great caution. Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad was a noted opponent of the Christian mission to British Pakistan.

Ahmad perceived that Islam (as it was being preached and practiced in Pakistan) was inferior to Christianity, and he began a project to reform Islam to better rival Christian teaching. Part of his solution was to include more anti-Christian elements in Islam and he also wanted to remove the respect in Islam for Jesus the Messiah. In fact it could be argued that the Ahmadiyya movement is more anti-Christian than the rest of Islam. 

Source: Kenneth Cragg, The Call of the Minaret, Oneworld Publications, 2003, 223. 

Post Script:

So, how should we respond to those who want to preach another Jesus? We must pray that they would come to know the Jesus of history, the image of the invisible God. Throughout the New Testament, the Apostles sought to fight false teaching and heresy. In fact, in nearly every letter, some false teaching or heresy is exposed and dealt with. For example, 1 Corinthians deals with teachers who denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Galatians argues against those who said that justification is by Jesus plus becoming a Jew, not faith alone in Jesus alone. In Colossians, Paul warns against a strange Jewish-mystical teaching that seemed to combine Jewish dietary laws with esoteric Greek philosophy. 1 John confronts many who denied that Jesus, the Son of God, came in a human body. Over and over, the church’s leaders fought against false teaching in their churches.

This isn’t to say that in defending the faith we can or ought to forsake courtesy. One mark of our conversion is that we treat everyone, even those in error, with gentleness and respect (2 Timothy 2:24; Titus 3:2). Surely, we can disagree without being disagreeable. And yet, there are truths at stake, and even more than truths, there are precious individuals whom God has entrusted to us for pastoral care and oversight. Our task is to protect the flock even as we examine ourselves to ensure that our teaching and doctrine are pure (1 Timothy 4:16).

God Won’t Give Me More Than I Can Handle And Other Lies I’ve Believed

“God Won’t Give Me More Than I Can Handle And Other Lies I’ve Believed” preached at the Church of England on Norfolk Island on Sunday 12th May 2019.

In a culture that tells us we can be anything we desire, this motivational slogan is meant to encourage, to reassure us that life won’t be too hard. There will be challenges, sure, but God knows my limits. He won’t overdo it.

The problem, however, is that God will give you more than you can handle. He’ll do it to make you lean on him. He’ll do it because he loves you.

Everything Happens For A Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Believed)

Inspired by the best selling book Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved (see link) our new sermon series explores five lies that we are tempted to believe as Christians:

“Everything Happens For A Reason And Other Lies I’ve Believed” preached at the Church of England on Norfolk Island, Sunday 28th April 2019
“We Do Church The Right Way And Other Lies I’ve Believed” preached at the Church of England on Norfolk Island, Sunday 5th May 2019
“Everything Happens For A Reason And Other Lies I’ve Believed” preached at the Church of England on Norfolk Island, Sunday 12th May 2019
“The Devil Made Me Do It And Other Lies I’ve Believed” preached at the Church of England on Norfolk Island, Sunday 19th May 2019
“A Decision Makes Me A Christian And Other Lies I’ve Believed” preached at the Church of England on Norfolk Island, Sunday 27th May 2019

Thirty-five-year-old Kate Bowler had finally had a baby with her childhood sweetheart after years of trying, when she began to feel jabbing pains in her stomach. She lost thirty pounds, chugged antacid, and visited doctors for three months before she was finally diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. How can a good God exist, in the face of all the injustice and suffering in the world? This book describes, in a very honest way, her search for the answer to that question, as well as her experiences with doctors, relatives and her own thoughts whilst on her sickbed.

28 April Lies I’ve Believed:  Everything Happens For A Reason
5 May Lies I’ve Believed:  We Do Church The Right Way
12 May  Lies I’ve Believed:
God Won’t Give Me More Than I Can Handle
19 May  Lies I’ve Believed:  The Devil Made Me Do It
26 May  Lies I’ve Believed:  A Decision Makes Me A Christian

What’s The Point Of Preaching?

We do a funny thing at church.

Every week, roughly the same group of people (the congregation) come to hear the same person (the preacher) speak.

If the average preacher speaks 100 words a minute, that means you’ll hear 2,500 words a sermon – maybe around 130,000 words a year. 

What difference does it all make?

Luke 8:1-18 Preached at the Church of England on Norfolk Island, April 7, 2019