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…for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.

John Steinbeck – East of Eden

“I remember clearly the deaths of three men. One was the richest man of the century, who, having clawed his way to wealth through the souls and bodies of men, spent many years trying to buy back the love he had forfeited and by that process performed great service to the world and, perhaps, had much more than balanced the evils of his rise. I was on a ship when he died. The news was posted on the bulletin board, and nearly everyone recieved the news with pleasure. Several said, “Thank God that son of a bitch is dead.”

Then there was a man, smart as Satan, who, lacking some perception of human dignity and knowing all too well every aspect of human weakness and wickedness, used his special knowledge to warp men, to buy men, to bribe and threaten and seduce until he found himself in a position of great power. He clothed his motives in the names of virtue, and I have wondered whether he ever knew that no gift will ever buy back a man’s love when you have removed his self-love. A bribed man can only hate his briber. When this man died the nation rang with praise…

There was a third man, who perhaps made many errors in performance but whose effective life was devoted to making men brave and dignified and good in a time when they were poor and frightened and when ugly forces were loose in the world to utilize their fears. This man was hated by few. When he died the people burst into tears in the streets and their minds wailed, “What can we do now?” How can we go on without him?”

In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, mo matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror….we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world.”

“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart”. Ecclesiastes 7:2

More Than Conquerors?

What does it mean in Romans 8:37 when Paul says that followers of Christ are “more than conquerors” (ESV)?

D. A. Carson gives some good answers to this question based on the context of Romans 8:

First, the “us” to whom the apostle refers includes all Christians. AllChristians are the ones whom God has foreknown, “predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son,” called, justified, glorified (8:29–30). The people referred to are not the elite of the elect; they are ordinary Christians, all genuine Christians.

Second, the actual evidence that they are “more than conquerors” is that they persevere regardless of all opposition. That opposition may take the form of horrible persecution, of the kind that Scripture describes (8:35–38). It may be some other hardship, all the way to famine. The glories of life will not finally seduce them; the terrors of death will not finally sway them; neither the pressures of the present nor the frustrations of the future will destroy them (8:38). Neither human powers nor anything else in all creation, not even all the powers of hell unleashed, can “separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:39).

Third, as the last sentence already makes clear, that from which Christians cannot be finally separated is the “love of Christ” (8:35) or the love of God in Christ (8:39). At one level, of course, that is simply saying that no power can stop Christians from being Christians. That is why we are “more than conquerors.” But that point could have been made a lot of different ways. To make it this way, with an emphasis on the love of Christ as that from which we cannot be separated, reminds us of the sheer glory and pleasure that is ours, both now and in eternity, to be in such a relationship. We are not simply acquitted; we are loved. We are loved not simply by a peer, but by God himself. Nor is this a reference to the general love that God has for his entire creation. What is at stake here is that special love that attaches to “all who have been called according to his purpose” (8:28).

Fourth, the guarantee that we shall prevail and persevere, and prove to be “more than conquerors” in this sense, is nothing other than the sovereign purposes of God (8:29–30), manifest in the death of his Son on our behalf (8:31–35). “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (8:32). No greater security is imaginable.

D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word., vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998).

A Tale Of Two Bruces and Two Clarks

Over the next month or so we’ll enjoy the ministry of three visiting preachers.

First to visit will be Rev. Bruce Clarke of St. Matthews Manly in Sydney. Bruce will be preaching in our Big Questions series on There Can’t Be Just One True Religion Can There? 

In September, Rev. Andy Clark will be visiting. Andy is the Assistant Minister at Sylvania Anglican Church in Sydney, a church that has committed to praying regularly for David and Crystal. Andy is married to Nicole and they have three little boys. Before theological study, Andy worked as a Physiotherapist at Nepean hospital.

In October, Rev. Canon Bruce and Heather Ballantine-Jones returns as locum Chaplain while David and Crystal and family attend that Bush Church Aid bi-annual conference in Victoria. Bush Church Aid partners with Anglican Dioceses around Australia to reach people for Christ.

Big Questions

Everybody has questions. But not all questions are created equal. Some questions are really big… and they can become sticking points to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In this series we will boldly tackle life’s Big Questions to help believers and unbelievers alike better understand the firm foundation of Christianity.

You can catch up on the first two sermons online:

05.08.18 Big Questions: Hasn’t Science Disproved Christianity? Listen online
12.08.18 Big Questions: How Could God Allow So Many People To Suffer? Listen online
19.08.18 Big Questions: You Can’t Take The Bible Literally Can You? Available soon
26.08.18 Big Questions: There Can’t Be Just One True Religion Can There?   Available soon
02.09.18  Big Questions: How Can A Loving God Send People To Hell? Available soon

Take Me To Church

This week, we’re looking at 1 Corinthians 6. The Corinthian church were suing each other in a court of law instead of keeping the matter “in the family” (6:1-8).

As strange as it sounds, this is the sort of thing happened all the time in the Roman world. Dio Chrysostom reports that the Roman word of the late first century was filled with “lawyers innumerable, twisting judgments.” (Winter, After Paul Left Corinth, 62). These lawsuits were politically motivated, between members of the rich and elite class (or want-to-be elite.) These lawsuits were opportunity for young orators to show off their rhetorical talents before the elite citizens (the judge, magistrate, jurors, etc.).

Paul’s solution to the problem is to “shame” them for suing their brothers. If the lawsuits were motivated by a perceived loss of honour in the first place, Paul turns a popular expectation upside down by saying that it is a loss of honour for a Christian to take his brother or sister to court. This is the “shame”: they are suing family members. The Church is a family not a social club. A person is not suing some stranger who has insulted them, they are suing family (and the Romans did not approve of intra-family lawsuits).

What does this mean for us? At the very least, we need to return to the truth than all the members of the Body of Christ are brothers and sisters and that it is dishonourable to treat a family member like a stranger.

See you in church 🙂


Where are we again?

Corinth was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire (maybe third after Rome and Alexandria).

It was situated west of Athens, on a narrow ithsmus between the Aegean and Adriatic Seas. Sailors preferred to have their ships dragged overland here rather than go around the more treacherous waters south of Greece, Corinth controlled the naval trade between Italy and Asia.

With all of the people and money flowing through Corinth, it became infamous for its intellectual debate (“They do nothing but speak and hear new ideas all day long”), religious observance, and moral debauchery “All of this evidence suggests that Corinth was the New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas of the ancient world” (Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 3).

Paul brought the message of Christ to this city in 51 AD, about three years earlier (Acts 18:1-17), and a large number of people came to Christ. Since then, things hadn’t gone so well in the Corinthian church. Some were involved in sexual immorality, some in religious prostitution (Cp. 6) and some even incest (Cp. 5), some had serious drinking problems (Cp. 11:21), some were falling into religious syncretism (Cp. 10:21,22), some were embarrassed about key elements of the gospel (the cross Cp. 1 and the resurrection Cp. 15), and they were racked by division (Cps. 1,3,6,11).

To put it mildly, the church was a mess! They weren’t transforming Corinthian culture; Corinthian culture was conforming them! Fortunately, God doesn’t give up on messy people or messy churches. God can take messy people with messy lives in a messy church and make a beautiful masterpiece of His grace.

 

Joyful Peace-filled News!

Radio Norfolk’s special Easter Broadcast titled “JOYFUL PEACE-FILLED NEWS” will go to air in both bands on Good Friday 30th March @ 8.30 a.m. It will be repeated on Easter Monday 2nd April @ 9.30 a.m.

Maundy Thursday Meal | 6pm | Parish Centre Prayer | Praise | Fellowship

Bring a plate to share. We’ll read through and meditate on the events of Holy Week, before sharing the Lord’s Supper together.

 

Palm Sunday | Sunday 25th March 

8.30am St. Barnabas Chapel (Holy Communion)

4.30pm All Saints Kingston (Evening Prayer)

 

Maundy Thursday | Thursday 29th March 

6.00pm Parish Centre (Passover Meal)

Good Friday | Friday 30th March 

10.00am All Saints Kingston (Combined Churches)

 

Easter Sunday | Sunday 1st April 

8.30am St. Barnabas Chapel (Holy Communion)

10.00am All Saints Kingston (Holy Communion)

4.30pm All Saints Kingston (Evening Prayer)

1. Pray for a Hunger for the Bible.

Imagine a church that longs to open the Bible each morning to discover afresh the truth of God’s character. Imagine hearts so overflowing with the Bible that our text messages, conversations, and prayers just drip with the Scriptures.

Our Father, give our church delight in your Word. Help us always to hunger for your truth. Lord, make our church a Bible-saturated church.

2. Pray for Thankfulness.

Being unthankful is not what God wants for us! The Apostle Paul identifies being unthankful as the beginning of unbelief (Romans 1:21). One way we can be praying for our church is to plead with God that we would be thankful.

God, make us to be a church that is thankful to you and for you!

3. Pray for Gospel Growth.

Jesus commissioned us as missionaries (Matthews 28:19) and churches have been preaching the gospel ever since. This cannot happen, however, with churches full of people unmoved by the gospel.

God, make us more and more impressed with Christ every day. Help us to grow in the gospel and walk in a manner worthy of it.

4. Pray for Holiness.

Peter calls us to be holy because God Himself is holy (1 Peter 1:15).

Our holy God, help us to want and to pursue Your holiness.

5. Pray for Unity.

The gospel brings people together. What’s more, it brings sinful people with various backgrounds together. The gospel takes selfish people and helps us to love one another. We are told to preserve unity (Ephesians 4:2) by walking in a manner that is worthy of the gospel.

Father, You are one in three persons. There is such a loving, happy unity in the Trinity. Make our church feel this happiness. Help us to be united together, as a church, and in love.

Every church is dying…

Every Church is Dying

Every church is a dying church in some sense:

• Some churches are literally dying. They are slowly losing people and will likely shut down.

• Some churches are glitzy and successful. They look vibrant and alive, but they’re really only alive to themselves and their institution. They look alive, but they’re dying and they don’t know it.

• Then there’s the church that could be big or small, glitzy or drab, that dies to itself daily – that has taken up the cross and is more concerned with following Christ, no matter what it costs, than its survival.

All churches are dying. Only one type of church will experience a resurrection.

The Kingdom of Nobodies

“The Kingdom of Nobodies” was a sermon on Mark 10:13-16 preached by Jono Thomas (the Combined Churches Children’s and Youth Minister) on Norfolk Island in January 2018.

Mark 10:13-16 (NIV)

The Little Children and Jesus

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

A Beautiful Mess

On Sunday February 11th we launch our new series, ‘A Beautiful Mess’, looking at 1 Corinthians.

Paul launched the Corinthian church and stayed there for about 18 months. A few years later, while Paul was in Ephesus, people reported to him that there were serious problems in the church. He also received a letter from the church that showed there was a great deal of theological confusion on a number of issues. Paul wrote this letter to a church that was in a mess; they were struggling with division, unresolved conflicts, sexual immorality and many other questions and problems that needed resolving.

Even though all this was going on, Paul was still able to write, ‘I give thanks to my God always for you’ and ‘you are not lacking in spiritual gift’. He didn’t just see the mess; he saw beauty amidst it all. Looking through the lens of the gospel he could see the beauty of what God was doing! Paul learned to focus on what God was doing amongst the mess, not the mess itself – a beautiful mess.

If God can use the Corinthian church, with all the challenges they were facing – then surely he can use us as well as we seek to love Jesus, love each other and love Norfolk Island!

Reformation Heroes In 200 words: John Knox (1513-1572)

Did you know it’s been 500 years since the Protestant Reformation? For the last month or so I’ve been sharing some short biographies of key reformers.

Today: John Knox (1513-1572)

John Knox is the Father of the Scottish Reformation. While working as a priest, Knox was introduced to the gospel through a man named George Wishart, who was eventually killed for his faith. Seeing his mentor martyred ignited a passion in Knox to devote his life to gospel preaching. Fleeing persecution, Knox went to Geneva and sat under the preaching of John Calvin. His time in Switzerland enabled Knox to produce theological works which inflamed not only the hearts of his fellow believers, but the hatred of those ruling Scotland. While he was pastoring an English-speaking congregation in Geneva, Knox’s goal was to return to Scotland and spark revival. His motto: “Give me Scotland, or I die!”

Finally able to return to Scotland, Knox’s gospel preaching was received by the burgeoning revolutionaries who were preparing to revolt against their Catholic Queen, Mary Queen of Scots. As the hostilities ended, Knox established the Reformed Church of Scotland – which became Presbyterianism. Knox’s fiery determination to stand with the gospel against human authority inspired his countrymen and left a lasting legacy of faithfulness. His ability to unite reason and passion in the pulpit has influenced centuries of preachers. Today, John Knox is buried, ignominiously, underneath a parking lot behind St. Giles Cathedral. You can visit him in space #23.

john-knox-grave-edinburgh-car-park-23